Can I Just Tell You?

Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You?

NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

Urban Legends Aren't Even Worth a Stamp

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The program's host offers her thoughts about the insidious nature of urban legends and how to dispel the myths.


Every now and again when I have something on my mind, I like to talk about it in a commentary.

And today, I have got to call out all these people who keep sending me these crazy e-mails about things that aren't true. Can I just tell you? You know who you are. Or maybe you don't, because I have to assume if you knew this stuff was not true, you would not be wasting my time sending me these bogus messages.

My question is, why? Could it be because the days are getting shorter and people are spending more time indoors, that my inbox has been inundated of late with urgent calls to rescue abandoned puppies that don't exist or to cover stories that are supposedly being suppressed by the media, which have actually been all over CNN for days? Or could it be that what some social critics say is true, that many of us are walking around with one big chip on our shoulder, waiting for somebody to knock it off?

My personal favorite of late is the one about the stamps, this one sent me by a person of some sophistication and judgment who should know better and who shall remain nameless - i.e., my husband. This one instructed everybody to rush out and buy black heritage stamps, because they were all about to be discontinued and the remaining stock destroyed.

Now, I found this odd, because while I'm not one who feels the need to personalize everything - you know, I don't have vanity tags. I don't like logo wear. But for some reason, I do like pretty stamps, and I buy a lot of them since I'm old-fashioned enough to actually send written or printed invitations to people instead of relying on e-mail.

I like to match the stamp to the missive - a liberty bell for the taxman. Maybe a Paul Robeson for my activist friends. So anyway, I often buy black Heritage stamps, and I often find them sold out. So why would the post office be destroying them? Sure enough, a quick check of one of the urban legend sites -, in this case - reveals this chestnut has been around for years. The post office has no intention of discontinuing the stamps. And, in fact, a new one for Kwanzaa is going to be out in just a few weeks. I like what the site had to say about this, that many of these legends being passed around are expressions of the feeling that blacks are being overlooked and slighted.

Now, I understand the feeling. There are still disparities in the way different people are treated. And most people know it. A black teenager is forced to give up his backpack in a store, while his white classmate isn't. A black customer is followed around in a fancy dress shop while her white friend isn't. All true, all things I have seen or experienced. But that does not mean every company or every government official is sitting up at night looking for a chance to diss people.

Come on, people. Let's save the outrage for when we really need it. Check the facts first, then send the e-mail. And if you don't agree with me, hey, write me a letter and buy a stamp. I like the ones with the pretty flowers.

(Soundbite of song, "Signed, Sealed and Delivered")

JAMIROQUAI (Singer): (Singing) Oh yeah, baby. Like a fool, I went and stayed too long. Now, I'm wondering if your love is still strong. Ooh, baby, here I am. Signed, sealed, delivered, oh yeah…

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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Can I Just Tell You?

Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You?

NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

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