Shop Talk: Glenn Beck A Civil Rights Leader?

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck is hosting a rally this weekend to honor military families on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Junior’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Beck says he wants to carry on King’s vision. The ‘Barbershop’ guys discuss the controversial timing of Beck’s event. They also talk about the New York cab driver who got stabbed by a passenger after revealing his Muslim identity, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s plan to hire “Ebonics specialists” to help “translate” wiretapped drug conversations, and the now officially single Tiger Woods. In the shop this week: writer Jimi Izrael, Johns Hopkins University political science professor Lester Spence, Republican strategist Ron Christie and civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar.

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ALLISON KEYES, host:

I'm Allison Keyes, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News.

Now we head to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, Johns Hopkins University political science Professor Lester Spence, Republican strategist Ron Christie and civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar. Take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Writer): Thanks, Allison. How are you doing?

KEYES: I'm good. How are you doing?

Mr. IZRAEL: Good to have you back in the chair (unintelligible).

KEYES: Thank you.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, fellas, welcome to the shop. How are you doing?

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil Rights Attorney, Editor): Hey, hey, hey.

Professor LESTER SPENCE (Political Science, Johns Hopkins University): What's going on?

Mr. RON CHRISTIE (Republican Strategist): Hey.

Mr. IZRAEL: Man, I don't know. What's going on in New York, man? One cabbie, he caught up in some kind of racist pop quiz, and next thing you know, he gets stabbed multiple times, Allison.

KEYES: Yeah, that's 44-year-old Ahmed Sharif. He picked up 21-year-old Michael Enright. Somewhere along the way, Enright learned his driver is Muslim, they started talking about Ramadan and then Enright made jokes about it. And then he said, quote, "This is a checkpoint. I have to bring you down." He took out a knife and slashed the driver's neck and stabbed him. Sharif spoke about it on WABC.

Mr. AHMED SHARIF: You see this on the neck?

Unidentified Man #1: No.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

Mr. SHARIF: And then, again, he stabbed me. Then I'm trying to hold him and I'm telling him, I said, please, do not kill me. I'm very hard worker. I work very hard.

KEYES: The murder suspect is a volunteer with the group that supports religious and cultural diversity, as well as the building of the Islamic center near Ground Zero.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thanks for that, Allison. This is really, really sad. Ron, R.C.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Yo.

Mr. IZRAEL: My man, welcome back to the shop. You're in New York City right now. What's the view from the ground, bro?

Mr. CHRISTIE: I have to tell you, I think people here in New York City are very, very concerned about the lack of cultural and religious sensitivity in light of the decision to build a mosque near Ground Zero. My wife and I were in a cab two nights ago, and the cab driver asked us, you know, what are you sensing about this mosque? And we said that while the individuals had the constitutional right to build it there, we were in Washington on 9/11 when it was struck, and we understand the sensitivities of some people.

So there are a lot of heated emotions on both sides of the issue, but this crazy kid, I mean, this type of violence cannot be tolerated, and fortunately, the cab driver is alive and this individual is in custody.

Mr. IZRAEL: A-train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, well, let's call it what it is. It's a hate crime. And you know what it teaches is that hate speech in America eventually leads to bias-motivated crimes regardless of who the victim is. It could be anti-Latino violence. It could be homophobic - anti, you know, homosexual violence. It could be anti-Muslim violence. Hate speech eventually does lead to hate crimes.

What it reminds me of is three days after 9/11, when we had the first post-9/11 hate crime murder occur in Mesa, Arizona with a Chevron gas station attendant named Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was an Indian Sikh man - he was not even a Muslim or an Arab, but the fact that he wore a turban on his head and had a beard, a 44-year-old man named Frank Roque came in, shot him point-blank. And as he was being taken away, he kept screaming at the television cameras: I'm an American. I'm the true patriot.

This is exactly what is wrong with America today, and that is why we need hate crimes legislation across the board.

KEYES: It does seem like the rhetoric's getting crazy.

Mr. IZRAEL: Brother, if I can go ahead and put this out here right quick, A-train, I've said this to a number of my friends. But I'll just go ahead and say this to you personally. I love you like a brother, and I really want you to be careful out there, you understand? People are acting crazy. So, please, please be careful out there, brother.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Oh, that's very kind of you. And, actually, I have friends in New York who are saying that, you know, I'm trying to get cab drivers, and they have all four doors locked. Cab drivers in New York are scared to death right now. They don't know what to do and what to think.

KEYES: The cab drivers here in Washington are pretty afraid, as well.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

Mr. IZRAEL: We got Lester.

Prof. LESTER: Yeah. I mean, so the hate crime data isn't necessarily, quote, unquote, "clean." But from the - the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates that a number of types of hate crimes are on the rise. And it's important that on the one hand we keep this, we isolate this incident, but on the other, we connect it, as some of the other panelists have, to a wider set of not only rhetoric, but also economic anxiety. Economic anxiety combined with populist racist rhetoric tends to lead towards - to support for racist policies and it tends to lead to incidents like this, and its really, really deeply, deeply problematic. We should all be concerned.

KEYES: Let me just jump in here for a minute and say, if youre just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are in the middle of our weekly visit to the Barbershop. This week weve got Jimi Izrael, Lester Spence, Ron Christie and Arsalan Iftikhar.

Jimi, to you.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thank you. All right, fellas. As you know, not only does this weekend mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall, it also marks the anniversary of March - the March on Washington and the "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

KEYES: That's right, Jimi. Fox News channel's Glenn Beck is planning to hold a rally there tomorrow. He says its to honor military families.

(Soundbite of broadcast)

Mr. GLENN BECK (Fox News): What an appropriate day. At first we picked that day, we didn't know and I thought oh, jeez. But now I think it was almost divine providence. I do. His dream has been so corrupted. It's time we pick that dream back up and we finish the job.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, I'm - thanks for that, Allison. I'm not sure if Glenn Beck is the best arbiter of the dream. Doc, Spence, help me out here.

Prof. SPENCE: Well, there's one problem with using Martin Luther King's language in general, and that he's not necessarily, he's not alive to talk about this. But to the extent we can use his words, I've got a couple of quotes. I probably only have time for one, but given the last story, I want to leave lead(ph) with it.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right.

Prof. SPENCE: This is from Martin Luther King: Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

That's says it all right there.

KEYES: Some civil rights leaders have been - and activists - are not having, shall we say, too much faith in what Glenn Beck is doing; although Beck himself says basically said, well, blacks dont own Martin Luther King and King's ideas have been purposely distorted.

Mr. IZRAEL: Whatever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Listen...

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, man.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Listen, Glenn Beck is no Dr. King. He is no Dr. Seuss. He is no Dr. Pepper. He is no Dr. Dre or Dr. Ruth, because we know she was a stone-cold gangster.

KEYES: Dr. Pepper?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Listen, putting Glenn Beck and Martin Luther King in the same sentence is like putting Don Imus and Malcolm X in the same sentence. You know, this is a person who called the president of the United States, Barack Obama, a racist, and now he's going to talk about, you know, that he is the civil right - new civil rights vanguard for the millennium? Last time I checked he was a white conservative Christian male. Since when have they been oppressed in America? Not so long as I could tell.

Mr. IZRAEL: I think he really - right. Yeah. He needs to back away from the civil rights iconography. R.C., help me out.

Mr. CHRISTIE: I agree with you on that, Jimi. But I think people need to chill out here. I mean if you look at the original speech...

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay.

Mr. CHRISTIE: ...it wasnt the "I Have A Dream" speech. It was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And I believe that King's vision and his dream was that people could have the opportunity to speak out, to voice their opinions and do it in a respectful fashion. Not a particularly strong fan of Glenn Beck; in fact, I really dont like his show at all, but he has the right. He has the opportunity to go to the mall, he filed a permit. People should wait and listen to see what he has to say before ascribing all these negative motivations to it. I mean I've heard that there could be upwards of 100,000 people on the mall and the riot police are being called out. We need to just stop and see what's going to happen, as opposed to assuming the worst and assuming there's going to be a riot. People need to chill out.

Mr. IZRAEL: To your point, R.C., I'm feeling that. It's just I dont appreciate him pimping the dream any more than I appreciate other people trying to misuse civil rights stuff. You know, that what messes me up.

Mr. CHRISTIE: I agree with you. But again, this isn't an iconic anniversary. I mean it's the 47th. It's not the 50th. It's not the 25th.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. CHRISTIE: I mean let's just wait to see what the guy has to say. Everyone right now - and this is what worries me, Jimi...

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay.

Mr. CHRISTIE: ...everyone right now is on pins and needles about racial and cultural sensitivity. I think we're at a pivotal point in our history. If we dont stop inflaming issues, I think this country is going to be torn apart rather than brought together like Dr. King wanted us to be.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Ron, Ron...

Mr. IZRAEL: All right.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Glenn Beck said...

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead and get the last word, A-Train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Sorry. I was going to say, when Glenn Beck says that it was quote/unquote "divine providence," talk about making some hype about this, you know, speech.

KEYES: He did say that.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: And if I see one poster with President Obama with a Hitler mustache, I hope that one is played on the evening news so we can see exactly what kind of people are at this rally.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Well, again, wait a second...

Mr. IZRAEL: All right.

Mr. CHRISTIE: I am a conservative. I take offense to that.

Mr. IZRAEL: R.C.?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Glenn Beck, he's and entertainer. He's an entertainer.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay.

Mr. CHRISTIE: There are nuts everywhere. If there's a nut out there with a picture, that doesnt mean that all conservatives are nuts, and that's what upsets me about what people in the liberal media try portray, conservatives...

Mr. IZRAEL: Noted. Noted. Let him get that out there and let's keep it in motion, shall we?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Absolutely.

Mr. IZRAEL: Now. All right. Now, you know, as it happens, speaking of nutty ideas...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: ...the Feds are out there putting out feelers for what they call Ebonics translators. Now, for you that dont know, African-American vernacular English, most commonly called Ebonics, is a mixture of Standard English with African language structure. Now, federal agents think these translators can help interpret wiretapped conversations related to drug.

Now, for those of you who dont know, this isn't really a new idea. I mean back in the late '70s a guy named Joseph Pistone was chosen to infiltrate the New York Italian mafia precisely because he was Sicilian and understood the peculiar idioms of the community. He wrote a book about it, which was made into a movie that you may have heard of, "Donnie Brasco."

KEYES: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: So this really isn't a new idea. You want first in, Doc?

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah. There are few different problems. One is, is resources I think would be better used towards other means of dealing with the drug war rather than surveillance and prosecution. But second, but the big money in drugs isn't necessarily conducted on the streets by kids speaking Ebonics. It's conducted in the halls of power. You know, so that's another way, its a use -its a misuse of resources.

But as far as the idea itself, I mean Ebonics is a language and, and as much as kids speak it, I think we should treat it as if were at least a dialect deserving of respect, so that minor point I can agree with. Everything else is a bad policy.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, Doc, forget about it. R.C., what....

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: R.C., help me out, man. What's your take?

Prof. SPENCE: That's Ebonics...

Mr. IZRAEL: I know, man, I was...

(Soundbite of crosstalk)

Prof. SPENCE: You tried to find one. You couldnt find one, could you?

Mr. IZRAEL: I was getting my Donnie Brasco on, homey.

Mr. CHRISTIE: You were working it.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Look. Look. This is nuts. At a time when our children are falling behind to other nations in the world in reading - and reading comprehension and writing, the last thing the federal government needs to do is to be spending and wasting resources on Ebonics. I mean I'm a native Californian. I remember back in the late 1970s where they had that resolution in Oakland that spent far too much time talking about Ebonics and diverting money and far too little attention on educating the children in the classroom. Let's keep our eye on the children rather than wasting money on Ebonics.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Gentlemen. Gentleman.

Mr. IZRAEL: All right. Hold on. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Hold on. R.C., I'm taking an issue with all of that. But obviously...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: ...the point isn't about the FBI and Ebonics. The point is whatever it takes to get drugs off the street, because you know, Donnie Brasco, Joseph Pistone, he brought down a crime family.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Hey, Jimi...

Mr. IZRAEL: So, so hold on a second, brother. Whatever it takes, right? Whatever it takes, R.C.?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Whatever it takes.

Mr. IZRAEL: Are you going to go out there and fight the war on drugs?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Absolutely. Actually, I am.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. CHRISTIE: I am a member of the Boys and Girls Club board in Washington, D.C. and I think there are far more constructive...

KEYES: But do you speak Ebonics?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, that's what...

Mr. CHRISTIE: ...ways to make sure the children come off the streets, to make sure that children have a different path forward. But I'm saying, at this time is it really in the best interest of the government to waste those resources for Ebonics to take drugs off the streets? There are far more effective ways to do so than that.

KEYES: And where's the Ebonics class being taught for them in the first place?

Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train. A-Train.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Jimi, my only question for you is going to be, you know, if I took A.P. Ebonics in high school, would I be able to...

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: ...you know, fast track past the evaluation exam?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: For people that dont understand what the whole thing about African-American vernacular English was about, what it was about, it was about teachers using quote/unquote Ebonics as a pathway to teach children about standard English. That's what that whole thing was about.

KEYES: True.

Mr. IZRAEL: And the argument got twisted, just like it's getting twisted right now. Because this doesnt have anything to do with teaching kids Ebonics or giving the big ups(ph) to Ebonics. This has to do with using one tool to take drugs off the street. Period.

Prof. SPENCE: This is Dr. Spence again. Yeah, this is Dr. Spence.

Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, doc. Get it.

Prof. SPENCE: Yeah, It's really, really important to understand the distinction between the drug policy and the education policy thing, right?

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Prof. SPENCE: Because empirically, R.C.'s my man but he's absolutely wrong when he talks about what Ebonics was used for in the Oakland case, right?

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Prof. SPENCE: So if you put that on the side, and then the question becomes, okay, youve got these kids who are dealing drugs on the street and they're causing problems, but to what extent should we be using resources to deal with them as opposed to the people who are really, really, really moving weight? That's the...

Mr. IZRAEL: Forget about it. Forget about it.

KEYES: That is a whole nother issue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Let's, all right, moving on. Moving on. So the world's number one golfer, he's back on the market, ladies, officially.

KEYES: Oh, wow, let me go get some new shoes. Okay, no. Seriously.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: I know, right? Yeah, his divorce is finalized from wife Ellen, this week.

KEYES: Elin. Yup.

Mr. IZRAEL: Elin, Ellen.

KEYES: Whatever.

Mr. IZRAEL: Ex. Ex. Yeah, it's all done. It's a wrap.

KEYES: And apparently, you know, maybe his golf game will get better because he himself has said it's been on a downward spiral - well, since then, the Thanksgiving weekend car crash that spawned wild allegations of sexual infidelity, and then women just started coming out of the woodwork.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, yeah. I mean they were falling out the trees like apples, like...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Apples?

Mr. IZRAEL: Or bad apples, right?

KEYES: Wow. Why are they bad?

Mr. IZRAEL: Hey, A-Train?

KEYES: The women aren't bad. He's bad.

Mr. IZRAEL: Look, dont get me started.

KEYES: Come on, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Dont get me started about...

KEYES: Come on.

Mr. IZRAEL: Dont get me started. A-Train.

KEYES: Denzel.

Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train. Right. Exactly. You know, I'm a one woman man, right? A-Train?

KEYES: You better be.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Does Tiger's divorce do anything to change your opinion of him?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: No, not at all.

Mr. IZRAEL: And his misdeeds?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Not at all. And when the story first broke here on the Barbershop, the first thing I said on behalf of all married men, keep your Tiger Woods in your pants, and I say that to this day...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Wow.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: And I still think - listen, I think ever since...

Prof. SPENCE: That's Ebonics...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I think ever since - I think he's been downgraded right now from Tiger Woods to Cheetah Woods and he needs to, you know, get back up to Tiger Woods. And, to his credit though, after the divorce was finalized he apparently shot his best round ever in this last year, because he's been, you know, in a big slump right now, so I think...

KEYES: He did say he learned a lot about himself.

Mr. IZRAEL: Woo-ah! R.C., get the last word, man. R.C., get the last word, man.

Mr. CHRISTIE: I think its sad. I think its sad that he entered a sacred union with his wife and he betrayed that trust with her. They have two beautiful children, and I really worry the most about the kids and their impact of having a father who is a philanderer. Tiger will go on. He'll make his money. Elin has her millions. But I worry about those two beautiful kids.

KEYES: I must say, they both have said that they are all about the kids and they're concerned about the kids and they will do their best to make sure that the kids are okay.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. And I'm glad that it appears as if Tiger has gotten the custody deal that he wanted. That was my concern, that Elin was going to take his kids and abscond to, you know, Switzerland or somewhere else. But apparently he got the deal he wanted and that's what up. Shared parenting, it's rough but, you know, if you get a good custody deal, it can be okay.

Prof. SPENCE: A few hundred million dollars always helps.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. Seriously.

KEYES: There is that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: Gentlemen, know what time it is?

Jimi Izrael is freelance journalist and author of the book "The Denzel Principle." He's joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Lester Spence teaches political sci - is political science professor at Johns Hopkins University and joined us from Baltimore. Civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar spoke right here in our Washington, D.C. studios. And Ron Christie is a Republican strategist and head of Christie Strategies in Washington, D.C.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Bye.

Prof. SPENCE: Peace.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

(Soundbite of music)

KEYES: And that's our program for today. Im Allison Keyes. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Lets talk more next week.

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