FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Now on to our Bloggers' Roundtable. We've got more on yesterday's unprecedented apology to black Americans. Plus what will happen to affirmative action when a new president is elected? And is commercial black radio rallying support on air for Barack Obama? And is that fair? With us is citizen journalist and public policy consultant Faye Anderson. She blogs at Anderson at Large and for NPR's election blog, Sunday Soapbox. Jim Collier writes the blog Acting White and former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross blogs at Three Brothers and a Sister and hosts "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalk Radio. So, welcome, everybody.
Mr. KEVIN ROSS (Blogger, Three Brothers and a Sister): Thank you for having me.
Ms. FAYE ANDERSON (Blogger, Anderson at Large): Thank you.
Mr. JIM COLLIER (Blogger, Acting White): Hi Farai.
CHIDEYA: So earlier in the show we talked about this milestone on Capitol Hill. The first federal apology for slavery coming from the U.S. House of Representatives. Jim, I'm going to start with you. Is saying sorry necessary or not enough, or even relevant?
Mr. COLLIER: Well for me, saying sorry is not really relevant. I mean - and it causes actually some issues. I mean, I sort of thought about my 13-year-old son. And if he came back to me and wanted to apologize for things he did when he was six, I would have to say that's good, but, you know, you weren't that mature at six. But my bigger issue here is that it leads to a greater notion of reparations and it's sort of kissing cousin which is this slavery-era disclosures. And that's how really the notion of reparations gets implemented when you have municipalities actually going after corporations in order for them to make reparation in order to do business with the cities. And it really amounts to extortion. So I'm really against it.
CHIDEYA: Faye, that was pretty straight forward. What do you think?
Ms. ANDERSON: Well, where do I start? Well let me just - Farai, you mentioned that the state - the U.S. capital is really the house that slaves built. So it was a symbolic gesture in the capital. But you know what, Farai, I don't think it'll do any harm. But you know what I would rather see? I was in South Carolina for the primary. I was in Columbia. I was so offended by the Confederate flag that I saw in the State House grounds in Columbia. I would like to see representative James Clyburn, who represents Columbia, introduce a resolution calling on the state of South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag. For me, that would be far more meaningful.
But I want to get to Jim's point about extortion. I live in Brooklyn where a new arena is being built for the now New Jersey Nets. The naming rights have been given to Barclay Banks, which going back in the history financed the slave trade. The community is outraged that Barclay's name will be on that arena.
CHIDEYA: Well, what about you Kevin? Do you think that - there have been many different levels of documentations by different people. Earlier in the show, Mary Frances Berry talked about some of the law suits. But even places like Brown University, their founders where in the slave trade. Do you think there should be an accounting and a reckoning for some of these institutions that were involved?
Mr. ROSS: I do, and what's interesting about this whole issue of slavery and the apology and reparations and affirmative action is that you have to ask yourself, do we get all of that if Barack becomes president? Because ultimately I found myself thinking, if I had to give up reparations and I had to give affirmative action in order for Barack to be in that position, me as a black Republican, would that be a fair trade-off? And I would have to answer unapologetically yes. It would be a fair trade-off for me. And the reason why I say that…
Mr. COLLIER: What does that have to do with the other?
Mr. ROSS: Well, because here's what ends up happening. When we look at the history of slavery, a lot of it is based on the psychological ramifications that we are still dealing with. None of us today have been enslaved, and yet we are dealing with some psychological things that happened that have continued to permeate the African-American community. When you look at what's going on right now in this election, you see just the opposite. You see someone like Farai going to this Unity Conference of Journalists and their increase of three, four hundred members beyond anything that they've ever had in terms of turnout. You have someone like me who just came back from Atlanta from the Black Bloggers Conference. The Blogging While Brown Conference.
You see individuals that as a direct result of this election are starting to say, you know what? It's time for us to make our own way. To start going in a different direction and so for me the apology's nice. But I'm really looking at substantively what are folks doing about the state and the plight of black Americans? And we're seeing it in this election. So all this other stuff, I'm OK with it. Whether reparations or this issue of affirmative action, I'm OK with it. Because we are now seeing African-Americans man up and handle their business in a way unlike I've never seen before.
CHIDEYA: Now let me move on to a related topic. You've mentioned affirmative action several times as well as the election. And we've now got - after the election that would not die, you know, like 12 million debates and stuff, it's now less than 100 days until America votes for a new president. And John McCain endorsed a proposed ballot measure to end race and gender-based affirmative action in Arizona, his home state. Barack Obama says he supports affirmative action when it's structured properly. Both McCain and Obama say equal opportunity should not be based on quotas, but neither side said how to reach a quality without quotas. So with all that said, Jim, what do you make of the discussion of presidential politics and affirmative action?
Mr. COLLIER: Well, I mean, I think it's a good example of two different approaches to sort of winning the presidency. And I mean I like Obama's approach because, even though you're not really sure sort of where he would go, you know, he brought it to the heart by basically saying early on that his kids should not benefit from affirmative action. They're rich. They've had all the privilege and they don't deserve to be given bonus points just because their skin is black. And I think that really sort of states where he's likely to end up even as he dodges the bullets of the election. McCain on the other side is just chasing voters. So one minute he's for and the next minute he's against because his demographers or demographers are telling him, you know, this is going to get you the most votes.
Mr. ROSS: Jim, you sound like that's a bad thing. You make it sound like it's a bad thing, chasing votes. Isn't that the whole purpose of why he's running?
Mr. COLLIER: Well, when you're chasing votes and people, again, don't end up - don't know what you're going to end up buying in the end, it is a bad thing.
Mr. ROSS: Oh no, they know exactly what they're getting. They're getting a Republican who's playing to his foundation. Because when you look at all the other demographics, he's not resonating with any of them. He's not resonating with African-Americans, Latinos, he's not resonating with women. And he's not resonating with young people. So he's looking at his core. So isn't that one of the tenets? Me being a Republican, I can tell you, that's something that plays well with the base.
CHIDEYA: Let me get Faye in here. Faye, do you think as Kevin is suggesting that this is just - I mean, that essentially John McCain doesn't have a big interest in pleasing certain demographic groups of color, and so he has nothing to lose, regardless of, you know, kind of all the other issues of why he is - had supported that ballot measure and his stance on affirmative action. He has nothing to lose with voters.
Ms. ANDERSON: Absolutely. It's a win-win for John McCain. Polls show that black support for John McCain hovers between one percent and four percent. He's losing the Latino vote to Obama somewhere like two-to-one. So for McCain, who has a problem with his base, his base Republican - the Republican base in not enthusiastic about McCain. So this is one way, tossing a bone to the base that'll likely generate - may bring out more voters in both Arizona and Colorado, where it's also on the ballot. So you have two swing states with this wedge issue that will - that appeals to his base.
But Farai, earlier on you mentioned quotas. You know, I just see red when that term is tossed out, because to say one is opposed to quotas is a red herring, because quotas are illegal. And so this is easy to say you're opposed to something that's illegal. And so I was a little bit disappointed - I'm disappointed whenever I hear Obama talk about quotas, because he knows the issue is not about quotas. But in any case, study after study shows that white women are the principle beneficiaries of affirmative action. Black folks hold on to this issue more for symbolic reasons, lest folks forget about the racial disparities, racial inequalities. It's really not about the real impact of affirmative action.
CHIDEYA: All right guys. I have to move on, just because there's one more topic that I think gives us a good chance to look in the mirror, and it's about black radio and Obama. There have been a couple of big articles, a front page New York Times article and now another one that's in the New Yorker about Tavis Smiley specifically. Basically, folks are starting to ask whether shows like Tom Joyner's and Michael Bayston's are kind of left equivalent of, you know, a Rush Limbaugh, only in the sense that, you know, there's a clear political agenda. It's not about trying to say McCain on the one hand, Obama on the other hand. It's like, Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama. And is that fair? I mean, you know, let me start with you, Faye. Is that fair?
Ms. ANDERSON: Fair to whom?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. ANDERSON: Oh, Farai, I should - in case your listeners don't know, I should make note that I am a finalist to be the next commentator on the Tom Joyner morning show.
CHIDEYA: Oh wow.
Mr. ROSS: All right. Congratulations.
Ms. ANDERSON: (Unintelligible) two weeks ago. But that said, you know, you have to give - as Tom Joyner says, you give your audience what it wants. Black folks overwhelmingly support Obama. So it's not about an agenda, it's about appealing to your audience. If Tom Joyner or any of the other black talk radio hosts were to talk about John McCain, the audience will go elsewhere. There's a lot of competition.
CHIDEYA: Well, Kevin...
Mr. ROSS: Well you know, I've got to jump in on this.
CHIDEYA: Well, before you do, I want to make the point that the reason that Faye is in the running is because Tavis stepped out of being, you know, kind of the commentator and the political voice for Tom Joyner. And he received threatening messages after he publicly chided Obama for not attending his State of the Black Union Conference, and questioned Obama's commitment to black issues. Do you think that some black folks are taking that over the line if someone doesn't support Obama?
Mr. ROSS: Well, of course they are. Listen, I have to give full disclosure. Tavis and I have been friends for years. He was at my wedding, we're both Kappa brothers. When I first met him, he was running for city council here in Los Angeles. That's how we met. I worked on his campaign. He gets it, he is down with black people, period. Part of the uncomfortableness of Tavis is you have someone that's taking on a black bi-racial brother from Illinois that has a 95-percent approval rating among black folks. So even though he's trying to be critical in his analysis, the issue is, don't go messing with Obama. Because at the end of the day, he is the messiah, he is the chosen one.
And to some extent I think that that's a detriment to us in terms of having some real strong discourse and conversation about whether or not Obama's policies and the things that he's looking at implementing go into effect.
Now as relates to radio, I used to do talk radio. And at the end of the day, it's not about Barack versus McCain, it's about ratings. It's about ad dollars. It's about making sure that your audience continuously calls in, that they tune in, that they buy the product. So black radio has always been about uplifting black candidates, about supporting black causes, to the detriment to the Republican Party and Republican ideology. What you're starting to see with internet radio and cable radio, and even with me being on Blogtalk Radio, I had a conversation recently where we had five Republican black commentators discussing politics from a standpoint that you wouldn't necessarily hear on a Tom Joyner Show or a Michael Bayston. So what we're seeing right now is, while black radio is doing what Rush Limbaugh does for his base, you are having so many other platforms also being part of that discussion, and that to me is the bigger story.
CHIDEYA: All right. We're going to have to...
Ms. ANDERSON: Farai. Farai.
CHIDEYA: Sorry Faye, we're going to have to wrap it up there. But you know what? I will put a topic on the blog, because clearly, this is going to be a conversation we continue. So thank you guys.
Mr. ROSS: Thanks Farai.
Mr. COLLIER: Thanks Farai.
Ms. ANDERSON: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: We've been talking with citizen journalist and public policy consultant Faye Anderson, she blogs at Anderson at Large and NPR's election blog, Sunday Soapbox. She was at our New York studios. Also Jim Collier, who writes for the blog Acting White. He was at the studios of the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Plus former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, who blogs at Three Brothers and a Sister. He was with me at our NPR West studios. You can find links to their blogs and ours at nprnewsandnotes.org. And the conversation doesn't stop here. Our online series, Speak Your Mind, gives you a chance to sound off on the issues you care about. To find out how, go to our blog, nprnewsandviews.org, and click on Speak Your Mind.
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