Roundtable: Caring for Children and Parents, Hendrix Drink

On today's roundtable, host Tony Cox and his guests discuss those caring for children and elderly parents. They also examine a Georgia county that could be splitting along racial lines, and a new energy drink named after Jimi Hendrix. Guests: political consultant Walter Fields; economist and author Julianne Malveaux, and Ron Christie, vice president of the lobbying firm D.C. Navigators.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

TONY COX, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Tony Cox in for Farai Chideya.

On today's Roundtable, the U.S. military reduces its role in the war on drugs. And a potential split in a Georgia county pits white against black and rich against poor.

Joining us today to discuss these and other issues are political consultant Walter Fields, economist and author Julianne Malveaux, who is president and CEO of Last Word Productions, Inc., and Ron Christie, V.P. of the lobbying firm D.C. Navigators and former special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Hello, everybody. Nice to have you.

Mr. WALTER FIELDS (CEO and Publisher of NorthStarNetwork.com): Thank you.

Mr. RON CHRISTIE (Vice President, D.C. Navigators) Nice to be with you.

Ms. JULIANNE MALVEAUX (President and CEO, Last Words Productions, Inc.): Hey.

COX: Listen, we didn't really discuss in this previous segment on care giving race and class very much with regard to this. But I believe it's a factor worth discussing for a moment with the three of you because the choices and quality of care available to many black people, especially poor black people, can be and sometimes is very difficult, which makes the decision about helping our folks even tougher.

Julianne, let's start with you. Do you agree with that?

Ms. MALVAEUX: Oh, absolutely. Clearly, the African-Americans experience more than twice the level of poverty than others do, and much of our poverty actually is concentrated among our elders. So the woman that you interviewed talked about the assets that her dad had in managing assets. In some cases, there are no assets to manage, which then does put a burden on the sandwiched generation.

Also with African-American families, Tony, you have fewer two person families. So as opposed to a married person who's also juggling with children and has aging parent, you've got a single person who's juggling children and aging parent, which makes a burden even greater.

The other thing that I thought was very poignant about your interview is the notion you asked the woman, is it because you're a girl, and it is. The fact is that women provide more of this physical caretaking for aging parents. Men don't let themselves off the hook. They often write bigger checks.

But this is a day-to-day kind of experience, who goes to the doctor with an aging parent, who checks on the nursing home. And it boils down to the burden for women being even greater.

The last point I'd make is that corporate America is looking at some of these issues from the perspective of what they call work life. And they've been looking at it, primarily looking at people with children, how you make child care available. But I would suggest for the next 20 years, corporate America is going to have to look at the whole issue of aging parents as a baby boom and others age out.

The challenge there is that when you look at the African-American labor market, we may see some improvements overall from - driven by corporate America. But since many of us are in the peripheral labor market, the gap will widen even more.

COX: Let me just, before I bring you in, Ron Christie, to get your points on this, I want to address something that Julianne said. And I agree with you, but I just want to you to know that there are men that are involved, and in fact I am one who is going through exactly what Dina went through.

And my sister and I are sharing the responsibility of looking after both of our disabled parents who are both institutionalized. And she has her kids. I have mine. She's a single parent. I'm married. And yet - and we don't have a lot of money, either.

And it is a tremendous burden that you have to deal with on a daily basis. One of the things that, I don't know if it came out in the interview with Dina, was that it's the caregiver role, that is the person who is identified as the caregiver is the one who generally gets or put in this position, often times, most often that is the female, but many times it's not.

And in my case, that wasn't exactly how it worked out. Ron, what do you think about all of these?

Mr. CHRISTIE: I think it's very difficult. This is a situation that we encounter in my own family. My grandparents are both in their mid-90s and my mother is a registered nurse and living in South Carolina. But she has declined to go home to California, where we're from, in order to take care of her parents who live in Georgia. And she makes the trip nearly every weekend to go down to make sure that my grandparents have the medicines, the food and the other supplies that they need.

And it's very difficult. And as your guest pointed out in the last segment, you make very difficult personal decisions. You make very difficult personal sacrifices. And my mother is very concerned about her parents. They don't have a lot of assets. They are a little leery and a little nervous of caregivers and those to come into the home to take care of them. My mother has assumed that responsibility because she wanted to make sure that her parents had the best care provided.

So it's something I think that we face in America in general but also a situation, I think as Julianne pointed out, that is unique to the African-American experience. And it's part of our heritage but we want to make sure that we take care of our own family.

COX: You know, Walter Fields, I think that when it comes to black folks, this is a generalization so I want to be careful about what I say. But it seems that when it comes to having to get one of our parents out of their house, a house they lived in for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, as the case may be, that that is one of the most difficult things you will ever encounter.

Mr. FIELDS: Well, it's difficult because so many folks struggled for so long to get that asset. And I think that's a very difficult separation issue for many of the elderly. And I completely understand it. My mother cared for an aunt, as well as a great aunt and a family friend. And it's a very emotional experience.

I think the intensity of need in the black community is greater because many of these individuals, once they become of senior citizen age, you know, they didn't have great health care to begin with, and so you sort of see the tracking of poor health care throughout their lives. So by the time they reach their twilight years, the intensity of need is so much greater.

And I think our community does have a history of embracing, and not just family members, because that's one thing that I learned through watching my mother. We often care for individuals who are close to us who aren't blood relatives.

COX: That's true.

Mr. FIELDS: But we feel compelled that, because no one else is there, we have to step in. And I think the need is just tremendous in our community.

COX: One last thing I want to ask on this, I want to direct it to you, Julianne, and that is choosing between your parents and your children when it comes to your time. Not when a crisis occurs necessarily because I think that the crisis dictates, you know, who you go to. But when it's important, how do you make a choice like that?

Ms. MALVAEUX: Well, it's an impossible choice and people are basically balancing, juggling. As Dina said, you know, reaching on friends to pick up children after school. Some activities are missed, either way. I tend to think in from my observation, no data to back this up, but people do tend to lean toward the parent, and that actually provides a child with a powerful example of what they ought to do.

Although you want to keep your children at five and keep your children young, aging is a reality that our society is going to have to deal with more and often. So young people also have to know that just because you're old doesn't mean that you're incapable, just because you have Alzheimer's doesn't mean you don't something to bring to the table.

So we see our extended families of, you know, the African-American extended family being recreated and recreated. And hopefully that's a value as we have all these assimilation that we'll maintain.

COX: I think you're absolutely right. I've certainly told my children as they've watched me deal with their grandparents that, you know, when I get there, you know, I expect you to take care of me the way I'm trying to take care of them.

If you're just joining us, you're listening to NPR's NEWS & NOTES. I'm Tony Cox sitting in for Farai Chideya, who's on vacation.

With me on today's Roundtable are political consultant Walter Fields, economist and author Julianne Malveaux, and Ron Christie, former special assistant to President George W. Bush.

All right, folks, let's move on to another topic. This one comes of the good old state of Georgia, down in the city of Atlanta. There is a proposal to break Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta, into two counties, separating Atlanta's predominantly white affluent suburbs to the north from some of the poorest black neighborhoods in the southern edges of town.

Now supporters say the division will bring more efficiency to government. Opponents say it's about race and class and segregation. So Ron Christie, what is it about down there?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Boy, this is tough one. My brother lives in Atlanta. And on one hand you're looking at a population base that is larger than six states in the United States. On the other hand, I think it's a very difficult line because is this proposed division being solely considered and is something that could go to the legislature just to provide for the poor black folks on one part of the county and the more affluent white suburbs in the north.

So I'm going to take the careful tack on this and say I want to read a lot more about this and hear specifically why they want to do this. I mean, it sounds great to say that you want to provide more county services. But if in fact this is being done on racial lines or socioeconomic lines, this is something I think that the legislature should take a very hard look and probably not support.

COX: Walter Fields, are you suspicious of this?

Mr. FIELDS: Oh, I'm very suspicious. I think the efficiency argument is a smokescreen. And this is not the only situation in the country where you have their weird geographic boundaries drawn out. When I was an undergraduate in Baltimore, I was amazed that Baltimore City was not a part of Baltimore County, that there are two separate jurisdictions.

So I think across the country where you have some of these strange geographic arrangements, but what's really interesting is that I think the folks in Milton County, the so-called Milton County, really underestimate the importance of the city of Atlanta, an essential city in particular.

I think if this happened they're going to be surprised to find out that much of their wealth is driven by the fact that you have this major central city, which is an economic engine for the region, and that they are fooling themselves to believe that by creating this division somehow or another they're going to be better off.

Across the country, I think in some states people are beginning to realize the importance of central cities again as economic engines. And I think if this goes through, the new Milton County is going to be shocked to find that everything in Atlanta that they consider to be bad, most of it is good for their own economic well being.

COX: Well, you know, Julianne, I must say when I first read about this, I was curious as to whether or not the area known as Buckhead would be included in this new Milton County. For people who are not familiar with Atlanta, Buckhead is sort of a high-end, northern-edge part of the city of Atlanta with restaurants and homes and a great deal of financial infrastructure. But Buckhead is not a part of this. I don't know if that means anything or not to you.

Ms. MALVEAUX: Well, Buckhead leaders - lots of friends in Atlanta have been calling people to find out a bit about this. But Buckhead leaders seemed to be split about this. See, if you ride out Peachtree in Atlanta, you just ride right into Buckhead. So it's not like Alpharetta, where you drive 40 miles - or 40 minutes, rather - to get from downtown Atlanta to Alpharetta.

So Buckhead really is contiguous to Atlanta. And the argument that Walter made is probably most pointed when you talk about a place like a Buckhead. I mean, Walter is exactly right. People aren't looking at what they get from cities. They're just simply looking at what they give. They're not looking at the agglomeration of economies that cities bring to the region.

And I would posit that given MARTA - the transportation system and other things - if Milton County, so-called Milton County - it's almost like the Confederacy or something - if Milton County were to succeed, you'd almost have to create several regional bodies to deal with things like water and transportation and other things. So while you think you're becoming more efficient, you may actually become more inefficient.

As we look at what's happening with energy, public transportation becomes more and more important. And so you talk about folks who are complaining about paying for public transportation. No, people in Alpharetta don't use public transportation a lot. But guess what? Their housekeepers do.

And so, again, you know, you want to talk about splitting the county, where does your labor force - especially for those, you know, lower-income jobs -where do they come from? I think it's a very shortsighted move. If you ask what was it about, it's about the Benjamins, but it's about the Benjamins in the short run. In the long run, it's really about people's race and class biases.

COX: I wonder where the county commission is going to fall down on this issue. Because thinking back here in Southern California, there was, about three years ago, an effort to...

Ms. MALVEAUX: I remember that, yeah.

COX: ...for the San Fernando Valley to secede from the rest of the city. And in some ways, there's really a parallel between what's going on here in Atlanta and what occurred here. And, in fact, that effort failed and it caused the mayor at that time his job, because when he ran for re-election, you know, the folks who were in favor of secession - there were other issues as well. I don't want to suggest that it was just that. But the issue failed, the mayor lost his job and we moved forward.

So how do you see the commission, you know, falling in on this point, Ron?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Well, again, I think it's very difficult. And as my two colleagues have already articulated, there's a certain intangible that I think that you lose by moving a center city area out of a particular geographic location. The center city brings a lot of diversity, a lot of richness to a particular community. So I hope that those country commissioners - as they look to determine whether or not there should be a new Milton County - as I said from the outset, realize that if they're doing this, they need to do it for the right reasons.

But again, it seems to me that this is being done more on race and socioeconomics than it is on any practical sense. And as Julianne said, what are you going to do for that infrastructure? The people who are coming in to these communities, your bus lines, your rapid transit - it seems to me this might cause more headaches than they ultimately intend.

COX: All right, let's move on to another topic in the time that we have left. This is kind of interesting, folks. A new energy drink called the Liquid Experience will use the image of African-American rock legend Jimi Hendrix -that's right, Jimi Hendrix - as a marketing brand.

Fans of the guitarist don't like it, obviously. His name has already been used to sell baby clothing and all sorts of things. Now couple this with the battle over the estate of the late James Brown, as those relatives continue to bicker about - among other things - where to keep his remains and how to market his final resting place, vis-a-vis Graceland.

So what do you think of this? Is this beyond the pale of what's appropriate for branding people who have gone on? Julianne, what do you think?

Ms. MALVEAUX: Absolutely. I mean, it's amusing now that we'd be talking about this a couple weeks before the Super Bowl, which is, of course, a big branding opportunity. And there's this concept in advertising called brand extension, where you basically take your brand and parse it and slice it and dice it up in as many ways as you can to maximize your profit.

Now, Jimi Hendrix, a beverage? Give me a break. Most of the people who drink these carbonated beverages don't even remember who Jimi Hendrix was.

COX: That's true.

Ms. MALVEAUX: But I think it's almost a sacrilege to try to deal with it.

These James Brown children all need to be institutionalized. I mean, they can't even put the man in the grave because they want to figure out where they can make some money. I mean, who's going to be the security guards, the ex-wives? I've - never mind.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Oh, Walter, you know, a Jimi Hendrix Energy Drink - I'm sure that it would give you wings, wouldn't it?

Mr. FIELDS: Well, you know, being old enough to remember Jimi Hendrix...

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Oh.

Mr. FIELDS: That we can't even, you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Oh, boy.

Ms. MALVEAUX: That was low, Walter.

Mr. FIELDS: We done it - I mean, that's what we've come to. You know, and for -you know, we also have to - this isn't just in the entertainment world, because if you remember the battles over the imagery of Dr. King and the licensings arguments. I mean, because of today's celebrity culture and the opportunity to brand images, there is a real problem now because even in death, your image stills has value.

So you see James Brown, you see Dr. King, you see Jimi Hendrix - you know, all of these celebrities, once they are gone, there's always going to be this image of what's the problem of what's the appropriate way to continue their legacy and for those who own the licensing rights to make money.

COX: Well, Ron, that leaves about 20 seconds for you to chime in on that. You got a thought, a brief thought?

Mr. CHRISTIE: A brief thought. It's all about money. And Walter and Julianne are absolutely right. It seems to me that some of these relatives or some of the people who stand to benefit from this are looking after their own - as Julianne would say - Benjamins rather than are they doing the right thing for the legacy of that individual, as Walter also said, yeah, I'm old enough to remember Jimi Hendrix. And I just wonder what little extra kick they put in that energy drink.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHRISTIE: I think I'll (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: That's a good place for us to get out of here. Political consultant Walter Fields joined us from our New York bureau. Ron Christie, VP of the lobbying firm D.C. Navigators, and former special assistant to President George W. Bush - economist and author Julianne Malveaux, also president and CEO of Last Word Productions Inc., joined us from our Washington D.C. headquarters.

Everybody, thank you very much.

Ms. MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Take care.

COX: Next on NEWS & NOTES, the black independent vote on Political Corner, and a startling film exposes how Latin immigrants are forced into slavery.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org 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.

Support comes from: