MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin and this TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
In just a minute, we'll hear from you, our listeners and bloggers. BackTalk is next. But first, it's time for our weekly segment, The Barbershop, where the guys talk about whatever is in the news and whatever's on their minds.
Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are opinion writer and blogger Jimi Izrael, blogger Patrice Evans, sportswriter Terrance Harris and editor and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikar.
Lots going on this week. A certain former football star is in legal trouble - no, not that one - we mean O.J.
Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks faces sexual harassment charges by a former colleague, and thousands flock to Jena, Louisiana, for a rally to support the Jena Six. Is this the new civil rights movement for a new generation? We'll see what the guys have to say about that. I may jump in from time to time. But for now, take it away, Jimi.
Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Columnist, AOL Black Voices): Thanks, Michel. Hey, hey fellas, welcome to the shop. How we living?
Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (National Legal Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations): We're good.
Mr. TERRANCE HARRIS (Sports Writer, Houston Chronicle): Hey. What's up?
Mr. PATRICE EVANS (Blogger; Freelance Writer, New York City): What's up?
Mr. IZRAEL: All right. Check this out. You know what? Yesterday, busloads of people headed to Jena, Louisiana, to rally on behalf of six young black men facing criminal charges behind the assault of a white student at a local high school, a.k.a. the Jena Six. Now, Patrice, P-Dizzle, do you think this is a watershed moment, like Selma was or not?
Mr. EVANS: No, no. I'm not in a tizzy up overall of this. Anything Al is trying to tell me to do or say or think, I'm a little, you know, hands off on that.
MARTIN: Al who?
Mr. EVANS: Al Sharpton, you know? And then, it's down South, you know, that's where the dog fighting pops off also. I think if you want to quarantine a town, maybe or something. But, you know, I heard you talking about it last weekend, you know. I don't have nooses on my block and maybe it's because New York is all liberal crazy and everything. But I think it's a special incident. It's nice to see black people getting active and coming together but civil rights? I mean, you know, I'm drinking out of water fountains. I'm getting vitamin water. I'm at the club, so, you know, I'm not stressing it too hard.
Mr. HARRIS: You're not serious, are you?
Mr. IZRAEL: You know, he - any…
Mr. HARRIS: You're not serious, are you? I mean, your noose's different now, man. No, you got a noose (unintelligible)…
Mr. IZRAEL: Well hold on. Go, go ahead, T-Harris, go ahead, T-Harris.
Mr. HARRIS: …there's not a noose you're dealing within New York but trust me, you're dealing with some, it's not a water fountain that you're having a problem with. But trust me, you're dealing with something. My brother, if you don't think you're dealing with racism, you need to wake up.
Mr. EVANS: Well, I didn't say we're not dealing with racism in the country. I just said this is not a civil rights movement, you know. It's a different, there's an evolution that's gone on here.
Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train, do me a favor. Speak of the legalities of this. I know that some of the charges have been knocked back, you know. Bust it.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, as a civil rights lawyer, I think the Jena Six case does resonate nationally. It's sending a clear and resounding message to people all around the country, in small towns all around the country - that if cases like this happen again, if nooses go flying over trees again, if you make a mountain out of a molehill, and if you don't address the quarter racial issues at hand, you know, you might have a national story on your hand.
And so I think it sends a loud message to school superintendents in small school districts around the country. I think it's reinvigorating people. I don't, you know, obviously, I don't think it's Selma(ph) but it can be good for the country and I think it can be good for the racial dialogue in the society.
Mr. IZRAEL: You know what, A-Train, you know, what P-Dizzle brings up a good point, you know, because I tell you what, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, whenever they show up, I get nervous, you know. How do you read that? I mean, I don't know. I mean, I always seem sold but at the last minute when all the T-shirts go on sale…
MARTIN: Okay. Wait, can I - hold up. Can I just say something about this now? They're not the only…
Mr. IZRAEL: Sure, Michel.
MARTIN: …people down there. Mos Def is there, Tyler Perry…
Mr. HARRIS: Right.
Mr. HARRIS: Yeah.
MARTIN: …radio host Michael Baisden. In fact, I would argue that the blogosphere had a lot more to do with getting folks down there…
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.
MARTIN: …than the traditional civil rights leaders.
Mr. EVANS: And something important to keep in mind again, Jimi.
MARTIN: Just mentioning it. I'm out.
Mr. EVANS: We've talked about a few weeks ago is that if this case did not get the publicity and the profile that it got at the national level, then, we'd have six kids right now who would be facing attempted murder charges and I think that, you know, what it shows to overzealous prosecutors around the country is that if you're racially motivated in your prosecution than your, in your indictments, you're going to be called out on it and maybe, you know, a little late but you know what? We as Americans are going to wake up.
Mr. IZRAEL: T-Harris, check in.
Mr. HARRIS: To me, this is about so much more. I mean, but these kids, they were being prosecuted for something that was ridiculous. I mean, what's a fight? I mean, and these kids were dealing with murder charges. And you know, people may not like Jesse Jackson, people may not agree with Al Sharpton, but I mean, I think we have to look beyond our personal dislike or disbeliefs in these two gentlemen, who I think for the most part of, I think their sincere and they're caring for black people.
Mr. IZRAEL: T-Harris, you make a really good point but here's what I have to say about that, you know. Don't we elect people to handle business like this? We got a Hall of Justice Department that should be on this, on like white on rice. And what's disturbing to me is that the people that are in Jena maybe should be in D.C., getting our elected officials to be about this. What do you say to that?
Mr. HARRIS: Well, did you hear what your president said when they asked him?
Mr. IZRAEL: I heard him. I heard him mumbling, though I heard him mumbling.
Mr. HARRIS: You know, when he said, well, you know, I don't want to get involved in this, I mean, I'll let the judicial system do its justice. I mean, come on, dude.
Mr. EVANS: The other thing for me with, I mean, with all the rallies…
Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, P. Dizzle(ph), go ahead.
Mr. EVANS: …with Al Sharpton and, you know, all their rally and everything, I mean, it's not to mitigate or take away from that movement or, you know, we're trying to rally there. But if you see a noose in the tree you know, that might be offensive but, you know, it's a new day tomorrow. If you get the N-word thrown at you, it's a new day tomorrow. And to be held back by that is a, you know, it's shortsighted.
Mr. HARRIS: Well, I…
Mr. IZRAEL: Hold on. Hold on, T. Harris.
Mr. HARRIS: I'm sorry.
Mr. IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train. Go ahead, A-Train. Bring it home.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: The thing that's most telling is that the local prosecutor had the audacity to say that the noose had nothing to do with the fight. I mean that shows a man who is elected to public - appointed to public office to enforce the law for all citizens of Jena, Louisiana, which is 85 percent white, 15 percent black, in the smack-dab middle of Louisiana and, you know, he has the audacity to say that the noose had nothing to do with that. I think that's the most telling part of this whole case.
Mr. IZRAEL: This brand of reactivism just worries me. I mean, because we put to much weight into an event on - and on the backs of a few emblematic individuals who's kind of had an incident of discrimination. Now if we hop the bus every time somebody got wronged, we wouldn't be able to hold a job. But, I guess, I'm in the middle, you know, but all they said, I'm glad we're making a show. So you know what, let's bust down the door and keep it moving and talk about O.J. - out on bail facing 11 - 11, count them - 11 charges he's getting from alleged robbery in Vegas.
Now, Arsalan, I think it looks like a set up, bro.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, I'm a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan, but today, Orenthal just makes me embarrassed to be a Bills fan. I mean, the dude just lost his mind. I mean, to me this shows just the cult of celebrity in our society. I mean, here you have a 60-year-old washed up has-been who just, you know, needs to flaunt his machismo around and show that he still got it, enough to get his Joe Montana football back.
MARTIN: Here's a short clip of Mr. Simpson in his alleged attempt to recover his sports memorabilia. That, apparently, is the incident that arose to these latest charges. You want to hear it?
Mr. IZRAEL: Drop it.
(Soundbite of recording)
Mr. O.J. SIMPSON (Former NFL Player): Think you can steal my (bleep) and sell it?
Unidentified Man: No.
Mr. SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of here (unintelligible).
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. EVANS: I know that voice anywhere.
Mr. IZRAEL: Right. Exactly. You know what, P. Dizzle, am I the only one where it smells like a set-up?
Mr. EVANS: Yeah, I mean, my take on this is sort of, you know, just like NPR needs flavor from the Barbershop, Barbershop needs to have some love and, like, compassion for their people, you know. I have some love for O.J. because I feel like, you know, he wasn't - listen, hear me out. Hear me out. You know, he wasn't born into the NFL and the commercials. He's coming up, he's black, he's name is Orenthal, you know. I saw he has rickets, you know, he had rickets as a kid. So if he dealt those cards that's a tough hand. You're not thinking about being a star, you know, a celebrity or anything…
Mr. IFTIKHAR: And then go on to star in "Naked Gun" movies…
Mr. EVANS: Right.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: and even in rent-a-car commercials and then have to be…
Mr. EVANS: Right.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: …another washed up has-been.
Mr. EVANS: You know, I think doesn't need jail. He needs, like, his momma and some warm milk and honey for, like, 24/7, you know. He needs a stroke on the head, you know. Give him some slack a little bit.
Mr. IZRAEL: Terry, T-Harris, you actually made me think about O.J. being innocent so I know you smell a set-up.
Mr. HARRIS: No, I definitely, you know, I mean, come on, let's - first of all, who gets held up and tapes it? Come one, man. I mean, where does this tape come from. They are killing me on this. If somebody has a gun pointed at you, are you going take the time to push an audio tape to tape it?
Mr. IFTIKHAR: I mean, this case…
Mr. HARRIS: Come on. Give me a break.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: In this case, the glove did…
Mr. HARRIS: They're insulting our intelligence on this.
Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: I was going to say, in this case, the glove did fit. And, you know, you got a call a spade a spade and O.J. just gone bonkers.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, I'm Michel Martin. You're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. The guys from the Barbershop are talking about O.J among other things.
Take it back, Jimi.
Mr. IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel.
Now, we got - we need an intervention here because Isiah Thomas has obviously lost his mind. Now New York Knick Coach Isiah Thomas is a target of a $10-million harassment lawsuit from Anucha Browne-Sanders, a former team executive. Now, he's alleged to have addressed her with the B-word. Now, I guess, the other piece that's disturbing for me is he said that it's okay for black men to call women the B-word but not white men to call women the B-word. And like I said…
MARTIN: Hold on a second. I'm sorry, Jimi. I'm sorry to interrupt, but hold on a second. I think we have a short clip. Let's hear it.
(Soundbite of recording)
Mr. ISIAH THOMAS (Coach, New York Knicks): A white male calling a black female a (bleep) is highly offensive to me.
Unidentified Woman: Would you find it also offensive for black male to call a black woman a (bleep)?
Mr. THOMAS: Not as much.
Mr. IZRAEL: I tell you what, as far I'm concern, T. Harris, yo, your boy, Thomas needs intervention. What's going on in his head?
Mr. HARRIS: He's kind of trip out here because he said it, and there is no proper way to say what he's saying. But this almost the equivalent of the N-word being used within the black community. I mean, if it's use here, we may not like it, we may be offended but we're not as offended as if the white man said it to us. So I mean, that's kind of where he was coming from on this. But there's no real good way, no easy way, no palatable way for that to just be said, and so that's why it's a problem. But, no, we kind of understand where he's coming from but he's way off the mark. You don't call any woman the B-word. That's just - that's out of bounds. It's wrong.
Mr. IZRAEL: Now, P, Dizzle, now you know your boy, Thomas, from back in the day. You know he has a problem with his temper. You know, he had this thing back in the day with Michael Jordan and John Stockton - he got kicked off a Dream Team, you know. Do you think we're seeing this right now, like his temper is coming back?
Mr. EVANS: Yeah, I think, you know, Isiah has a lot of issues coming out. But as far as using the B-word in all of that, again you clarified yourself he didn't say it was all right to use the B-word. He said he thought it was different. He acknowledged the distinction between a white person and a black person using it.
And I agree with T. Harris. I think it's just like the N-word. I think it's just like nappy headed, you know, whatevers, you know. And I think there is a double standard. And I think we should get comfortable with that because America has run on double standards, and we should have some double standards too. The reality is that black young - especially young people, black men used the N-word, black women used the B-word, others use the B-word and N-word. So you know, we're not getting rid of these things. We have to sort of reconcile them in our head and not get, you know, to huffed up over it.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: But by saying that…
Mr. IZRAEL: A-Train, go ahead, yeah, please.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: By saying that we should have our own double standards, that's saying essentially that two wrongs will make it right. I mean, a minute ago, we're saying that O.J. Simpson should get warm milk and cookies for pulling two guns on a guy and being audio recorded, and then we're saying that somehow Isiah was the victim in a case where we know from his long history in the NBA and beyond…
Mr. IZRAEL: Right.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: …that the dude has a temper problem. I mean, we have to call a spade a spade by saying that, you know, we should all have our own double standard. That's essentially saying that we're going to continue to justify wrong behavior with more wrong behavior instead of trying to remedy it and making sure that everybody is on an even playing field here.
Mr. IZRAEL: Gentlemen, I want to thank you. I got to throw it back to Michel Martin.
MARTIN: Thank you, Jimi.
Jimi Izrael is an opinion writer and blogger. He joined us from WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida. Patrice Evans blogs for the Assimilated Negro. He joined us from our bureau in New York. Arsalan Iftikhar is a contributing editor for Islamica magazine and a civil rights attorney. He joined us from our studios here in Washington. And Terrence Harris is a sportswriter for the Houston Chronicle. He joined us from WLRN in Miami.
You can find links to all of our Barbershop guests at our Web site, npr.org/tellmemore.
Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us today.
Mr. HARRIS: Thank you, Michel.
Mr. EVANS: Thank you.
Mr. IFTIKHAR: Thank you.
Mr. IZRAEL: Yup. Yup.
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