Barbershop: What's The Buzz? The men of the "Barbershop" weigh in on immigration reform, reality television, social responsibility in sports and Oprah's latest family drama.
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Barbershop: What's The Buzz?

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Barbershop: What's The Buzz?

Barbershop: What's The Buzz?

Barbershop: What's The Buzz?

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The men of the "Barbershop" weigh in on immigration reform, reality television, social responsibility in sports and Oprah's latest family drama.


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, your Letters. But first, it's time for our weekly visit with the guys at the Barbershop. They give us their take on what's on their minds and in the news.

Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up today are opinion writer and blogger Jimi Izrael, editor and columnist Gustavo Arellano, blogger and writer Michael David Cobb Bowen, and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette.

I hear they want to talk about immigration reform, social responsibility off the basketball court, and the vixens of reality TV. Come on, you know you watch. I may jump in if I need to. But for now, take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Opinion Writer and Blogger): Hey, thanks, Michel. Hey, fellows. What's going on?

Mr. GUSTAVO ARELLANO (Editor and Columnist): Nothing much, man.

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR. (Syndicated Columnist): Hey, man.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yo, it seems appropriate that we should kind of pick up where we left off last week because last week the immigration talk was just simmering but now I think we can safely say it's boiling hot. So let's talk immigration.

Now, this immigration proposal has been bopping around for a while. But now it's finding favor with language that works for some and not so much for others. Now, it would grant legal status to immigrants here before January 7, 2007, give them a chance to take a few tests, pay some substantial fines and be citizens after 12 years or so.

But then there's this thing where you have to go back to your country of origin and wait, and it all feels a lot like a game show, like "Who Wants to be a Citizen?" I mean, you have to pass a test, pay fines and make it home before Dog the Bounty Hunter throws you in a van and hauls you off to the border.

Gustavo, you know, some critics are calling this amnesty. What do you call it?

Mr. ARELLANO: I call it amnesty too. I think it allows folks a chance to be citizens. Obviously, as you said, there's a lot of stringent, you know, stringent penalties that go along with it. But I think at this point, with such opposition in Congress you kind of have to give a little to get a lot and I just hope that with the debate going on right now, maybe some of those provisions, they'll be pared down a little bit, especially the one going back home.

People are not going to go back home because they're going to be afraid that they'll probably never be let back in again.

Mr. IZRAEL: SO it's more like you have to give a lot to get a little. It's a game. It's kind of a game of, you know, bait and switch and take away. Ruben, how do you see it?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, listen, I - first of all, first you have to say everybody hates this bill; right, left and center, everybody hates it. Now, to be honest, they don't hate all of it. You know, the folks on the far right love half of it, they hate half of it. Folks on the far left, love half, hate. I think the fact that everybody has some problem with it makes it a great bill. If every single issue that came along we attack this way, with this kind of complicated solution where not everybody, nobody got a hundred percent of what they wanted, I'd be a happy guy.

I think that this is not amnesty. I disagree with Gustavo and I disagree with a lot of folks in the right wing as well. This isn't amnesty because folks have to physically leave the country, as you point out. And once you process your paperwork on foreign soil, where the laws of the U.S. don't apply, I don't see how that can be amnesty. And the only folks who were saying it's amnesty are folks on the far-right wing who have a stunted vocabulary on this issue. They can't get beyond the one word - amnesty.

Also this business about touchback, having to go back to your home country, it is essential. It's an essential part of this deal because these folks are here illegally. They need to atone for that and convince all these folks who are out here like me and others that they understand they did wrong and they want to make it right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Ruben, you're driving a hard line. Cobbsky, put it down, bro.

Mr. MICHAEL DAVID COBB BOWEN (Blogger and Writer): I like that line. You know, if people are going to treat America like Disneyland, well, if you want to ride on Space Mountain, you can't cut in line. So this bill does have a lot of stuff. You know, it's kind of like a Swiss Army knife. No matter where you stand, you get stabbed in the back. It's with this or that of the other thing.

Mr. IZRAEL: Ruben, where are these people going to find the money to pay these exorbitant fines, some of them three, $5,000. Wait a second. Can they come to you for a loan? What are they going to do? They're going to go to payday loans?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: You know, there's a lot of black and brown folks who already go to payday loans. We know that story. But the fact is…

Mr. IZRAEL: I'm headed there now.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah, sign away your life at 28 percent interest.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I'll tell you what. These folks have to pay a $5,000 fine. It's true. But guess what? They get to pay that $5,000 spread out over eight years. I heard recently, well, you know, you've got in some families three or four different people who are here illegally, so multiply that out and suddenly it's $20,000 in fines. Yeah, and you have four or five folks out there in the workforce making money, making money, sending a lot home - money back home to Mexico.

Here young kids have iPods and Nike shoes and everything else. They need to take some of that money and invest it in this program. Pay your fine and get legal.

Mr. IZRAEL: Gustavo, that sounds like a hard line, man. You down with that?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: There's a Republican in the house. Oh, lord. Here we go.

Mr. ARELLANO: Ruben has a point. I mean Mexico has received - I think last year it was something about $20 billion in remittances from immigrants. And so these immigrants, they're making a lot of money. Maybe they're still in poverty level, but they are still sending money back to Mexico.

And, as Ruben points out, once you come here to the United States, you engage in the national religion here, which is conspicuous consumption. You could be living eight to a house, but that doesn't mean you're not going to buy yourself your nice, you know, big Suburban to roll around in and take back to Mexico. So I think if immigrants really do want to engage in this country, $5,000 - you could save up. Come on.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wait a second. I can't save up for an Xbox. Five thousand - five thousand is big. That's a lot of money.

Mr. ARELLANO: Scrimp and save, man. Scrimp and save.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, I'm not sure this proposal is the ticket, but, you know, I don't have a better idea. You know, let's talk about some news popping off in my hometown. You know, Cleveland Cavalier Ira Newble insists about the whole Chinese government role in the genocide in Darfur. He drafted an open letter to them and it was signed by everybody on the Cleveland Cavaliers except for Damon Jones and LeBron James.

Critics are mapping this, LeBron's reluctance that is, to shoe money since Nike has a lot of business - they do a lot of business in China. Ruben, I doubt he has an inclination or the sophistication to go around the world ringing the alarm about stuff he doesn't know a lot about, and I don't think he should. What do you think?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I agree with you. I don't think he should, either. Why is it that everybody who plays sports or, you know, is in the field of entertainment or does movies is forced to have a position on human rights in China? You know, I get paid for my opinions, you guys get paid for your opinions - that doesn't mean that everybody else has to play the game.

Mr. IZRAEL: Gustavo.

Mr. ARELLANO: Are you kidding me, guys? This is - we're talking about sports figures. Sports figures are gods in this country. Back in the day, we had Muhammad Ali speaking out against the Vietnam War, saying I ain't got not problem with them Viet Cong. You have Carlos Delgado speaking out against the war in Iraq. The least LeBron could do is at least state a position on a humanitarian crisis. And I have a lot of respect for LeBron. He seems to me as a really humble guy. I'm sure if he doesn't have it already, he's starting his own foundation to help out underprivileged youth. And the very least he could do, he could take a stand. And people, kids look up to him as a role model. Especially in this day age with American isolationism, I think he should take a position totally.

Mr. IZRAEL: Cobbsky, should you really sign on for something that you really don't understand?

Mr. BOWEN: I think LeBron James ought to shut up for a number of reasons, least of all how he played against Detroit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Here we go. Here we go. Wait a second now. Wait, wait, wait. I'm from Cleveland. Don't knock my boys.

Mr. BOWEN: Yeah. He ought to take that headband and put it over his mouth. He shouldn't say anything. We ought to be paying attention to the serious political figures who actually have some dogs in the game. I mean, why are we talking about LeBron James? Why not Condi Rice? Are we so afraid of our political rights that we just have to go to athletes? That's ridiculous.

Mr. IZRAEL: I hear you, man. Well, let's switch gears right about now and talk about reality-show vixens. Now, I have a daughter, and I'm really troubled that reality-show vixens from shows like "Flavor of Love," "The Apprentice," "The Real World," and "America's Top Model" are becoming the that girl and Mary Tyler Moores of our times - the predominant female role models of an entire generation of women. Cobbsky, you know what freaks me out is that, like, while you've got Al Sharpton focused on rap lyrics, we aren't talking about the degree to which young ladies are modeling behavior they see on reality television. Do you think that these women are at the vanguard of a bold new women's movement?

Mr. BOWEN: It is bold and it's new, but that's not women - them girls. Them are chicks, them are brawds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOWEN: And I'm not trying to raise my daughter to be any of that. You know, if that's reality, I'd rather have my daughters watch Wilma Flintstone or June Jetson, because I just have to keep that kind of reality away from my daughters, period.

Mr. IZRAEL: Gustavo, I know you're a big "Flavor of Love" fan.

Mr. ARELLANO: Nah, I'm more "America's Next Top Model." I've got to give a shout-out to Jaslene from Chicago, who is the first Latina to win on that show. One of the interesting things that…

Mr. IZRAEL: Big up.

Mr. ARELLANO: Because one of the interesting things you're seeing with these reality shows is finally you have a lot of people of color on these shows. Especially in "America's Next Top Model," you had Jaslene, who's Latina. You had a couple of African-American ladies there. You had - a winner of the "Pussycat Dolls" was African-American as well, and the finalist, I think, was an Asian lady from out here in Orange County, actually.

So you're having all these people of color finally on screen, finally on shows that aren't minority-geared or, you know, driven or are specifically for minorities, like the George Lopez show and so forth. So it's kind of sad to see finally so much representation of people of color but in a way that's usually very sexualized or very poppy. I mean, really, "America's Next Top Model" is nothing more than a guilty pleasure for me, and to see young girls wanting to become models as opposed to actually working women, it's kind of disheartening, really.

Ms. IZRAEL: You know, Gustavo makes a great point about seeing more people of color on TV, Ruben. But, you know, we're seeing people of color at their worst, especially women - all the negative stereotypes about black women, all the negative stereotypes about Latinas…

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah, I worry about this stuff as well, because so much of the message that's being given to my daughter, to your daughters, is that, you know, listen, you have various tools in your toolbox. You not only have, you know, ambition and smarts and hard work and all that stuff, but you also have sex appeal, and don't be afraid to trade on that.

And, you know, maybe if they get a little bit of that, it's okay. I don't want that to be the dominant message. I don't want my daughter to get the point that because I'm crazy about her and other people are going to be crazy about her, she just has to bat her eyes and then she doesn't have to do her homework. You know, there is no substitute for hard work and talent and smarts and all that good stuff. And even if you can bat your eyes and even if you're going to, you know, have guys falling at your feet, that is not the way to go.

MARTIN: Can I just jump in for a second, guys?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Of course.

MARTIN: And I just want to point out that Jimi has all these shows TiVo'd, so I don't know what that says. But…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, she actually busted me on the radio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But, you know, it's mostly women watching these shows. I mean, the majority of the viewers, especially "Flavor of Love" and all that. What's up with that? And I'll step back out.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, Cobbsky. How come Al Sharpton isn't paying attention to Omarosa in, you know, New York? He's paying closer attention to 50 Cent and, you know, whomever else. What's up with that?

Mr. BOWEN: Well, see, I think people are going to feel sorry now for busting on the Miss America pageant. Because compared to these women, Miss America has a lot more class.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. More refined, yeah.

Mr. BOWEN: And I remember - I still remember when Traci Ross(ph) made it. She was, like, one of the first black women to get to model in the J.C. Penney catalog. And that was a model, and now we kind of take it for granted that Sears catalog or the J.C. Penney catalog or the Spiegel catalog has black models.

Mr. IZRAEL: I mean, it's all quite wrong. I mean, all young ladies see on these shows - they see women cheating, cursing, fighting and using their breasts for cash and prizes. And it's just - it's too much, you know. And I'm not going to let my little girl watch that.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Now, all that stuff should happen in private. It shouldn't be on TV. It should be happening in private.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Of course. Thank you, fellas, for checking in on the Barbershop. Gustavo, thank you.

Mr. ARELLANO: Hey. Thanks, man.

Mr. IZRAEL: Cobbsky, welcome back and we'll see you again.

Mr. IZRAEL: Always glad to be here.

Mr. IZRAEL: Ruben, as always, thank you, my man.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thank you, sir.

Mr. IZRAEL: And we're going to kick it right back to Michel.

MARTIN: Okay. Thank you.

Mr. IZRAEL: Michel…

MARTIN: (Unintelligible)

Mr. IZRAEL: Wait, Michel - you don't have a reality show in the works, do you?

MARTIN: I would be fully clothed, if I did, let me just say that. Those days are over. The spandex days are over for big girl, okay? I'll just let you know how it is. Well, thank you for the lovely thought.

Mr. IZRAEL: Okay.

MARTIN: And I'll certainly consider you as one of the judges if I ever do, Jimi. Is that a deal?

Mr. IZRAEL: I'll drink to that.

MARTIN: Okay. All right. Jimi Izrael joined us from Lexington, Kentucky. He writes for the opinion page of the Lexington Herald Leader. Ruben Navarrette joined us from KPBS in San Diego, where he writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and Michael David Cobb Bowen joined us from KUHF in Houston. He's a blogger and founder of the Conservative Brotherhood. And Gustavo Arellano is an author and staff writer of the O.C. Weekly. He joined us from KUCI in Irvine. You can find links to all of our Barbershop guests at our Web site, Gentlemen, thanks so much for visiting the Barbershop today.

Mr. ARELLANO: Hey, love. (Unintelligible) to love.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

Mr. BOWEN: Peace.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

MARTIN: We reached out to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a comment on LeBron James and teammate Damon Jones' decision not to sign the Darfur petition. They did not respond by the time of our broadcast. If we do hear back, we'll be sure to keep you updated at

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