Bloggers Discuss Oprah, Reporter's Altercation with Police

This week, the program's listeners blogged on the "Oprah effect" in Barack Obama's quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, the death of NFL star Sean Taylor and New York Post reporter Leonardo Blair's recent trouble with the police.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now, it's time for BackTalk, where we lift the curtain on conversations happening on the TELL ME MORE blog and get a chance to hear from you. Lee Hill, our Web producer, joins me here in the studio, as always.

Hey, Lee.

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, listen. I'm just a little under the weather today. So forgive me if I'm sounding a little bit likeā€¦

MARTIN: Like I did a couple of weeks ago?

HILL: Yeah, like you did a few weeks ago.

MARTIN: I feel your pain.

HILL: Well, I'm glad you do.

Well, say, the heat is on in the race for the White House. The Iowa caucuses are less than a month away. And Barack Obama will have the big O - Oprah Winfrey, that is - stumping for him this weekend. Now, last week, we tossed around this whole idea of the Oprah effect and what it really means - if anything. Here's the Reverend Marcia Dyson, one of our guests in last week's conversation.

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Reverend MARCIA DYSON (Political Commentator): Oprah is magnificent. She has star power. But you need more than stardust in your eyes for this particular presidential campaign happening in the primary.

HILL: Well, blogger Jamie(ph) begs to differ. She writes: I think that an Oprah endorsement will do Obama some good. Oprah is a good woman and has the ears of a lot of people, women, particularly, women of color, who may usually feel disenfranchised.

MARTIN: And I also should mention, Lee, in full disclosure, we learned after our conversation that Reverend Dyson is a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton's, who's another frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Moving on to our conversation about NFL star Sean Taylor - the 24-year-old Redskins safety was killed in his home in what authorities say was an attempted burglary. Although tragic, some people were wondering why Taylor's death stirred such an outpouring of grief. Sportswriter David Aldridge weighed in during a recent conversation.

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Mr. DAVID ALDRIDGE (Sportswriter): He was the best player on the football team and no one disputed that. The coaches, the players - everyone agreed that he was the best player on the team. And he was a black male - a young black male. And I think all of those things kind of combined create the sense of real loss and sorrow even though most people, including most journalists, didn't really know Sean Taylor at all.

MARTIN: Well, in response to that, we got this interesting post from Jim(ph). He wrote: As a person who despises the NFL and everything it stands for, I think it is possible to feel awful for Sean Taylor and his family and lament the fact that similar acts are taking place all over the country and getting little attention because there's no celebrity involved.

HILL: And, of course, our thoughts go out to Sean Taylor and his family. But finally, we heard this.

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Mr. LEONARDO BLAIR (Reporter, New York Post): What are you doing coming from that car? I was so shocked by the question because I knew that - you know, that's my car. Officer Castillo, he jumps out of the car and he's in my face, almost spitting in my face. He said to me, do you understand English? He's shouting, answer the question.

HILL: Oh, in case you're wondering. That's Leonardo Blair. He's a reporter for the New York Post. He was describing a recent encounter with New York City police. Now, Blair says he was wrongly stopped, searched and arrested by police and only released after telling them he worked for the press. Now, dehumanizing, is how he recalls it and he's letting folks know about it.

MARTIN: Now, in response to that, we got an interesting note from blogger Dirty Blues(ph). And he or she writes: Is the depth of most USA black adult males so shallow that a legal request for information from a police officer of color is considered a dehumanizing experience? This incident shows just how razor thin the self-esteem is of the USA black male professional class at all levels.

With all due respect, Mr. Blair is Jamaican. He's not African-American. And his point was not what was said but how it was said. And I'm not sure that you can extrapolate to all African-American males, but that's your opinion and we certainly do appreciate it.

Now, Lee, you had a similar experience, didn't you?

HILL: I did, which is why that comment is said out to me. And it wasn't in New York but it was in New Orleans.

MARTIN: And you can read about Lee's experience by going to our blog. And remember to tell us more about what you think. Go to npr.org/tellmemore and blog it out.

And that's our program for today.

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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. You've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

Let's talk more on Monday.

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