The State Of Our Union Is...Uh, How Much Time You Got? : Code Switch On the occasion of President Trump's first State of the Union speech, we're looking at where things stand on civil rights at the Justice Department, the state of play for the country's white nationalist fringe, and how Puerto Rico is faring as the federal government prepares to cut off its emergency aid.
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The State Of Our Union Is...Uh, How Much Time You Got?

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The State Of Our Union Is...Uh, How Much Time You Got?

The State Of Our Union Is...Uh, How Much Time You Got?

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(SOUNDBITE OF SOFT BEEPING)

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

You're listening to CODE SWITCH. I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

GENE DEMBY, HOST:

And I'm Gene Demby.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2018 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Less than one year has passed since I first stood at this podium in this majestic chamber to speak on behalf of the American people and to address their concerns, their hopes and their dreams.

DEMBY: That's President Trump, obviously, giving his very first State of the Union speech. And this is our state of the union episode, looking at some of our concerns, some of the stuff we think is important going into Trump's second year in office.

MERAJI: And while President Trump only mentioned it once, our state of the union will talk a lot about Puerto Rico, where more than 3 million Americans live. And hundreds of thousands have been doing that without power for months.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: I mean, you just hear, like, the incredible, like, mounting frustration and even, like, desperation in some people's voices.

DEMBY: Our teammate, Adrian Florido, updates us on what he's been seeing and hearing in Puerto Rico, including news that he broke about FEMA ending food and water aid this week.

MERAJI: And Gene, can we honestly talk about the state of the union without checking in on the state of white nationalism?

DEMBY: Shereen, we cannot.

MARK POTOK: In the United States, of course, the Donald Trump phenomenon has really been something.

DEMBY: That's Mark Potok. He's spent the last 20 years tracking hate groups and says you cannot ignore the Trump effect.

POTOK: He has done a whole lot to normalize extremism in this country - to normalize white nationalist, white supremacist groups.

MERAJI: Mark also tells us why hate in 2018 looks a lot like it did in 1918.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: But before we get to all of that, NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson tells us about what the Trump presidency has meant for the state of civil rights in this country.

DEMBY: Carrie, welcome to CODE SWITCH.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: So happy to be here. Thanks.

DEMBY: Let's talk about, first, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division because they traffic in what we mostly deal with here on CODE SWITCH. Is it normal for there not to be a head of the Civil Rights Division a year into an administration?

JOHNSON: Gene, it's a little unusual. Of course, President Trump has nominated this guy Eric Dreiband to do the job. Eric Dreiband used to be the general counsel of the EEOC. And in private practice, he represented a lot of companies who were facing discrimination lawsuits instead of the people who were arguing that they had been discriminated against.

DEMBY: So he was protecting the companies from charges that they were discriminating against people?

JOHNSON: That's right.

DEMBY: Huh - OK.

JOHNSON: That's right. And so his record is a bit controversial for civil rights advocates in that respect.

DEMBY: Right.

JOHNSON: He got a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but then his nomination kind of languished last year. But Gene, the thing is this White House and this administration really prioritized judge nominees over agency nominees.

DEMBY: OK.

JOHNSON: And so the president, last year, was able to get 12 appeals court judges on the bench. That includes something like three women and two Asian-Americans. The president, so far, has only nominated one African-American person and one Hispanic person to the federal bench, period. And that record on diversity has got a lot of civil rights groups and liberals really concerned about the pattern that the Trump administration is pursuing here on judges.

DEMBY: Did the Trump administration - have they responded to any of the criticisms?

JOHNSON: You know, I interviewed a conservative legal activist who supports the Trump administration recently. And he said listen, the Trump administration is prioritizing people who have a conservative ideology and a record of defending conservative causes and interpreting the law narrowly, as it's written. And he says it's not the Trump administration's fault that when it looks across the board of candidates who fit those descriptions that it's not as diverse a pool as President Obama's.

MERAJI: Speaking of President Obama, a former Civil Rights Division head under President Obama, Vanita Gupta - six months into Trump's presidency, she said that the new administration was rolling back civil rights priorities - criminal justice reform, voting rights protections being the two key race issues. Is that an accurate assessment?

JOHNSON: It's important to point out that in every change of administration from Republican to Democrat, the civil rights division at the Justice Department swings on a pendulum.

DEMBY: OK.

JOHNSON: And so in the Obama years, they spent a lot of time on voting rights, on protections for LGBTQ people and a number of other kind of assertive fronts, including police oversight. Everybody knew that when President Trump, a Republican, got elected the pendulum was going to shift the other direction a little bit with respect to civil rights. But what you - when you canvass civil rights advocates, what you hear is that they're surprised at how far that pendulum has swung.

You know, Jeff Sessions came into power. And within a matter of weeks, if not months, he revoked Attorney General Eric Holder's guidance to prosecutors and said, I think we need to get smarter on crime. And we need to punish people to the fullest extent of our abilities - whereas Eric Holder and then Loretta Lynch - Obama's last attorney general - had talked about only seeking maximum charges against drug offenders in certain cases where things were very violent. Jeff Sessions is instructing prosecutors across the country to charge the maximum penalties allowable under the law.

He's changed positions on at least two major voting rights cases - a case in Texas that's been in the courts for six years or more. The Obama Justice Department sided with black voters or prospective black voters in Texas. When the Trump administration came on board, they changed positions. And they dropped the claim that Texas lawmakers were intentionally discriminating on the basis of race through this big voter ID law that they passed.

A court in Texas has since sided with the voters and against the Trump administration. But it was a huge change in position after six years of fighting on behalf of these prospective voters to then side with Texas. And that's what the Trump DOJ decided to do. There was another case in Ohio where the Trump DOJ changed positions. That case had to do with voter rolls, lists of voters. And there's been an argument - a nonpartisan argument actually - that some of these voter rolls, these lists, contain old names - people who died, people who moved - and you've got to clean up those voter rolls.

But in Ohio, what they said was that if you don't vote for a certain number of years, we're just taking your name off the list. And civil rights advocates said that's not fair because sometimes people move legitimately but they still live in the state. You need to give them more of a chance to...

DEMBY: To stay current.

JOHNSON: ...To prove their identity, to stay current - rather than just ex their name off the list. The Trump DOJ changed positions on that case, and it now says that you should be able to, as a state, purge your voter rolls. The Supreme Court heard argument in that case. And while the decision is not yet out from the Supreme Court, the news coverage suggests that the Supreme Court may well side with the Trump DOJ in that case.

DEMBY: Wow. OK. You mentioned that the DOJ under Trump and Sessions have reoriented themselves to criminal justice reform. And so we know that there were some consent decrees. And real quick - a consent decree is an arrangement that the federal government enters into with local police departments to oversee the way they carry out their practices and to try to reduce instances of discrimination. Where do those stand now under the Sessions Justice Department?

JOHNSON: This is one of the biggest changes between the Obama Justice Department and the Trump Justice Department right here. The Obama Justice Department prioritized, using a law that was passed by Congress after Rodney King's beating, to look into patterns or practices of discrimination like excessive force or illegal stops - all of that kind of thing. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump view law enforcement as their partners, as their friends, not groups that they want to oversee or get in the business of.

And one of the first things that Jeff Sessions said was we are not going to be doing these consent decrees anymore. That had immediate impact in two cases. The Obama folks were rushing to get a deal in place with the Baltimore Police Department before they went out the door. The Baltimore consent decree did go through.

DEMBY: OK.

JOHNSON: They were also rushing to finish their report on Chicago's police department. The Chicago case never moved forward. And so now Jeff Sessions is not doing these kinds of investigations. To be fair to the Trump civil rights folks, they are still prosecuting discrete incidents involving police brutality, but they are not doing deep-dive investigations of entire police departments. And people like Vanita Gupta say that's a problem because if you only focus on individual actors who do bad things, you miss the patterns.

MERAJI: All right, Carrie, so you've been talking about what the DOJ's Civil Rights Division is doing differently or maybe rolling back what the Obama administration was doing. What are its priorities?

JOHNSON: You know, they say that prosecuting hate crimes are a big priority of theirs. They are enforcing the Shepard-Byrd hate crimes law from 2009, which covers victims who are LGBTQ. And they have prosecuted cases. They are doing investigations into things like the deadly incident in Charlottesville, Va., last year. Nothing has come out about that, but they say they're still looking into civil rights violations - federal civil rights violations there.

MERAJI: All right, let's turn to weed.

JOHNSON: Whoa, yeah. Wake up.

MERAJI: There's legal weed, and we know that Jeff Sessions has a personal beef with it. He's compared it to heroin. He says it's responsible for violent behavior, and there's a lot of data out there showing African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to get arrested for cannabis-related offenses. So what's the update on Attorney General Sessions' plans to enforce federal drug laws?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, Shereen, there's a bit of chaos here. There's a bit of a cloud of uncertainty. And if you talk to people inside the Justice Department, they're just fine with that. That's because Jeff Sessions revoked, recently, some guidance the Obama Justice Department had put out, saying essentially, the federal government in states where marijuana is legal is not going to enforce the federal marijuana laws on the books unless there's evidence of violent behavior, cartels, trafficking, marketing to little kids or shipping the drug from a state where it's legal to a state where it's not legal.

And mostly, the Obama Justice Department hewed to those priorities. However, Jeff Sessions does not like marijuana, thinks it's a gateway drug, has a long history - 30 years or more - in fighting it. And he has revoked this Obama guidance without giving much of a sense of when and how he's going to be enforcing the law.

DEMBY: So a year ago, lots of people were really concerned with what the Trump Justice Department under Jeff Sessions might do. So where do we stand a year out?

JOHNSON: You know, Jeff Sessions has gotten a lot of criticism from the president of the United States over Russia and other things. But when it comes to civil rights and civil rights priorities, Jeff Sessions has mostly gotten his way. He has managed, as the attorney general of the United States, to reshape the orientation of the Civil Rights Division. He's being tougher on drug offenders. He's revived, in some ways, questions about enforcement of marijuana laws. He's been tough on LGBTQ positions. He's reversed positions on voting rights. And he's doing much less oversight of police departments.

Jeff Sessions - people ask, why would he want to keep this job when the president's beating him up on Twitter and he's getting guff on Capitol Hill? Because he's making a big difference in all of these areas which he has cared about for his entire career. And a lot of them have to do with civil rights.

DEMBY: Carrie Johnson is NPR's justice correspondent.

MERAJI: Thanks, Carrie.

JOHNSON: Happy to be here.

MERAJI: There's one more thing we talked to Carrie about that didn't make it into that version of the interview. We actually asked her about one of President Trump's big promises on the campaign trail.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(CHEERING)

DEMBY: That promise became the executive order travel ban, which some civil rights lawyers and groups nicknamed the Muslim ban. And speaking of what the hell is going on, we wanted to know just where that stands today.

MERAJI: And real quick before we get to Carrie - there have been three versions of that travel ban and lots of lawsuits. The first version, among other things, banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for a period of 90 days. Version 2.0 took Iraq off that list. Version 3 added North Korea and Venezuela, replaced Sudan with Chad and bars most family members of U.S. residents and tourists from the eight countries on the new list from entering the U.S. indefinitely.

JOHNSON: Ultimately, the decider is going to be the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed part of this latest executive order - we call it 3.0 - to take effect in large part. And to some people, that signals that the Supreme Court, when it hears this case in the coming weeks, is going to finally wind up siding with the Trump administration. We won't know for sure until June, but there's reason to believe that the new Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, one of Trump's successful nominees last year, is already making a difference because the court, at one point, had kind of halted enforcement one of the travel ban orders. And now it's largely in effect.

DEMBY: That travel ban, of course, is part of a larger wave of hard-line immigration policies that President Trump has called for in his first year. And we know that those calls to stem the tide of immigration from certain countries resonate with his base.

MERAJI: Mark Potok, who's been studying hate groups and the radical right for two decades, says those calls also resonate with white nationalists and supremacists.

DEMBY: And Potok says that racial nationalism is back in a big way and in a way we haven't seen in nearly 100 years, both here and abroad.

POTOK: The last couple of years have really been extraordinary. In the United States, of course, the Donald Trump phenomenon has really been something. You know, he has done a whole lot to normalize extremism in this country, to normalize white nationalist, white supremacist groups and so on by either failing to criticize them, by essentially endorsing them talking about the very fine people who were marching with the Nazis in Charlottesville, Va. - all those kinds of things. And we are not alone. The very same thing is going on in Europe, where we're seeing, once again, the rise of extreme far-right racial nationalist parties in places like Poland and Hungary and, just recently, the Czech Republic, Russia and so on.

So you know, to me, to sort of look at it in the widest way, I think that in the United States, we're going through a time that is very similar to what we lived through as a nation in the 1920s - the 1910s and 1920s. That was a time when the country was changing massively in huge ways. It was becoming an industrial country - an urban country, when it had been a rural country. Women had just gotten the right to vote. Women were working in factories and out of the home. You know, communities and countries were drying up and falling apart.

So all of these kinds of things led, in the '20s, to real proto-fascist movements. Ultimately, the United States chose a different way as we entered the Second World War. But there was a time there where it looked like racial nationalism, scientific racism was very, very strong in this country and very much in the mainstream. And I think there are a lot of parallels to what is happening today.

MERAJI: Can you talk more about where immigration fits into this rise in racial nationalism that you're talking about?

POTOK: Sure. I mean, I think it is the single key to what we're talking about. In the 1910s and the 1920s, between 13 and 14, 14.5 percent of the population in the United States was foreign-born. We are just now reaching 14 percent for the first time since the 1920s.

DEMBY: Huh.

POTOK: That is very closely allied with this kind of reaction. Of course, in the 1920s, what that kind of racial nationalism ultimately brought us was the largest Ku Klux Klan in history - some 4 million members - 25,000 of whom paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House at that time. And it also brought us the 1924 Immigration Act, which was the racist quota system which essentially kept everyone out of the United States except for northern Europeans.

DEMBY: What do we know about the way that white nationalists think about and see Donald Trump and his administration a year into his administration?

POTOK: Well, they've been a little back and forth. Of course, when Trump first won the election, very shortly thereafter, there was an infamous conference held in Washington, D.C., in which white a nationalist leader named Richard Spence (ph) said, you know, hail Trump, hail victory...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD SPENCER: Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory.

(APPLAUSE)

POTOK: ...And got, in return, a lot of Nazi salutes, a lot of Sieg Heils. So at that point, the Richard Spencers and the David Dukes of the world were just absolutely celebrating. They thought they could do no better than Donald Trump. In the years since then, there have been some ups and downs. But still, I think more up than down for Trump. His return to immigration is kind of the chief issue in front of us right now along with his comments about Africa, about Haiti and places like that, have all, kind of, re-encouraged that same set of people on the far right, on the alternative right.

MERAJI: Who are you going to be watching especially closely when it comes to these hate groups in the next year?

POTOK: Well, that's an interesting question because I think that kind of organized, on the ground, so to speak, brick-and-mortar hate groups are much less important than they were when I started this work about 20 years ago. You know, back then, the radical right was very much dominated by fairly large and relatively well-organized institutions - groups like the National Alliance, the Aryan Nations, the World Church of the Creator. And what we are seeing more and more of are individuals acting on their own. And I think when we think back to Charlottesville last summer, what was, in a sense, most remarkable about it - aside from the murder of, you know, the poor woman who was killed...

MERAJI: Heather Heyer.

POTOK: Yeah, Heather Heyer - was the fact that most of those people who showed up there were not known. So we're seeing very large and kind of frightening numbers of young whites, often in college, becoming more and more openly attracted and more and more openly endorsing of white nationalism and white nationalist ideas.

DEMBY: So after this last year of watching this white nationalist fringe become emboldened, is any of this stuff getting better?

POTOK: Yes. I don't think that things are getting better right now. They seem to be getting worse. We've seen, for instance, a very definite rise in anti-Muslim hate violence in the United States that I think can be fairly directly traced to the sounds that are coming out of the administration and the president's mouth.

However, in the long haul, I think what is really going on is that we as a society are adjusting to massive changes. Some of them are cultural. Many of them are economic. And certainly, they are racial as well in the sense that this is a country that's been 90 percent white for almost its entire history. But we are now about 62 percent white and rapidly becoming less so. So what I am saying is that I think that we're going through a very tough time. But I have some real confidence that ultimately we will come out of this tunnel. You know, it may be 10 or 15 years, but I think in the end, we will be in a better place.

DEMBY: Thank you, Mark.

POTOK: My pleasure.

MERAJI: Mark Potok monitored and reported on extremist groups and hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center for 20 years. Now he's writing a book.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: All right, after the break, our very own Adrian Florido on the state of Puerto Rico. He broke news this week that FEMA was going to end its emergency food and water aid there, which angered some lawmakers. Here's Florida's Bill Nelson on the Senate floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL NELSON: (Laughter) Cutting this aid to the people of Puerto Rico - almost a third of them who still do not have electricity - it's unconscionable. And it's a travesty.

MERAJI: Stay with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: Gene.

MERAJI: Shereen.

DEMBY: CODE SWITCH.

OK. So the mayor of San Juan was at the State of the Union this week in Washington. She said that she went to remind President Trump and Americans that in Puerto Rico, things are not OK. As you know, after the devastation from the hurricanes last year, many people are still without power or water. Adrian Florido, our teammate here on CODE SWITCH, is in Puerto Rico, where he'll be reporting for the next six months.

MERAJI: Hey, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Hey, guys.

MERAJI: So you broke some news (laughter) about FEMA's decision to end aid to Puerto Rico. It is everywhere. It's all over social media right now. Tell us all about it.

FLORIDO: What I learned was that on January 31, Wednesday of this week, FEMA was ending direct aid to the island - direct food and water aid, that is. So since the hurricane, you know, FEMA has been delivering food and water to the 78 municipalities on the island. And then the mayors and their staffs, like, deliver that food and water to their communities. FEMA's decision to end this aid was not sitting well with people.

MERAJI: What kind of response have you been getting to this story?

FLORIDO: It kind of blew up. Senator Bernie Sanders started tweeting about it this morning. Other senators started tweeting about it. Bill Nelson, the senator from Florida, went onto the Senate floor Tuesday evening and basically called on FEMA to reverse this decision. It's unclear exactly what's going to happen. FEMA is still saying that they don't think that this help is really needed anymore. But, you know, I spoke with some local officials, specifically the mayor of this one town who said that 10,000 of her 30,000 residents are still getting this help in large part because a lot of them don't have any electricity, so they can't store their food, you know. And they can't go to the grocery store to buy stuff because it's a pretty poor community. And so people are using money to buy, like, fuel for generators if they can even afford generators.

You know, there's like a bunch of different scenarios all across the island. And, you know, some places are better now. And so maybe people don't need this kind of help, but other places are still kind of in bad shape. And so officials there think that FEMA should keep providing this help. So it's sort of an open question now as to whether FEMA will actually reverse this decision.

DEMBY: So Adrian, looking at the broader situation in Puerto Rico right now, what does it look like on the ground to you?

FLORIDO: I mean, it depends on where you are. Right? So like, here in Old San Juan is where I'm staying. And, you know, it's like a touristy area. The cruise ships are sort of starting to come back, you know. For the most part, like, Old San Juan and parts of San Juan where there is commerce and business and tourism are pretty much, like, back online for the most part, both in terms of water and electricity.

There are parts of San Juan, the capital, which are still kind of in bad shape. And then that's definitely true if you go out into the more interior parts of the island - rural, remote communities; places up in the mountains - where there are, like, entire towns that still don't have any power at all.

MERAJI: So on the topic of electricity, you did a story where you visited this couple. They're senior citizens. They're retired. And, you know, they were basically watching the lights turn on, getting closer and closer to their house. And you spent some time with them, you know, as they were waiting for their electricity finally to come on.

FLORIDO: Oh, yeah. So one of the big things that's happening right now is (laughter) - because there's such, like, mounting frustration over not having power, a lot of local officials - and mayors specifically - are, like, wanting to take matters into their own hands and just start restoring their power to their own towns by, like, either hiring their own people or, like, getting these crews of volunteers.

And so what the mayor of this one town, San Sebastian, did is he was just like, you know what? Screw it. Like, I've got, like, residents of my town who used to work for the power authority, who are linemen, who know how the power grid works here because they used to work for the utility company. So he just, like, recruited this team of volunteers to go out and start restoring power in his town. And over the last couple of months, they've restored, like - at this point, like, 3,000 homes.

And I went out with them one day when they were in this, like, hilly sort of area on the outskirts of the town. And I met this couple. And they have this balcony. They've got a balcony that overlooks the town below. And so they would sit on the balcony and watch as the power was coming closer and closer. And so on this particular day, they'd woken up in the morning, stepped out onto the balcony and saw that the utility pole in front of their house was standing again. The crew had lifted it up before they had gotten out of bed.

And the man, Luis Felipe, he said he literally jumped. He was like oh, wow. He was like it's finally our turn, you know? It's, like, our turn. Today's the day. And so I spent the whole day there as the crews were, like, working on the power lines outside. And they finally got everything connected. And the guy who happens to be the police chief-turned-volunteer electrician, like, walks up to their house, like, turns on the breaker and then steps onto the porch and, like, flips the porch light. And the light comes on. And the woman just starts, like, crying, you know. She starts crying...

MERAJI: Ah, that's so good.

FLORIDO: ...And the man, like, gets teary-eyed. And something as simple as the power coming back - you know, you imagine it's, like, not that big of a deal. But the things that it had meant for them for four months not to have power.

MERAJI: I don't know. To me, it's a big deal. I can't imagine not having power for four months. I don't know how my family was doing it in Vieques. I would've been on the first plane to the mainland - which actually brings me to the next thing that I want to ask you about. And that's people leaving. We know that people were leaving Puerto Rico already before Irma and Maria because of the economic situation. What's going on now?

FLORIDO: Yeah. I mean, so like - yeah. Like you said, right? Like, the exits from Puerto Rico has been going on for, like, more than a decade - right? - 'cause the economy here has been in bad shape for about that amount of time.

DEMBY: Right.

FLORIDO: But the hurricane, like, accelerated it dramatically. So it's, like, still hard to get exact figures, but estimates are that it's somewhere between, like, 200,000 and 300,000 Puerto Ricans left just after the storm.

MERAJI: Wow.

FLORIDO: And it was kind of amazing because last week, the Puerto Rican government released its new fiscal plan - its plan to sort of turn the island's economy around over the next several years. And the Puerto Rican government projects that in the next five years, it's going to lose another 20 percent of its population; 19.4 percent of the population, the government projects, is going to leave Puerto Rico between now and 2022.

DEMBY: Wow.

FLORIDO: The demographics, of course, of the island are changing because - it's, like, especially young people who are leaving, right?

MERAJI: Right.

DEMBY: Right.

FLORIDO: And so it's a lot of older folks who are left behind. And so when you're talking about trying to get the island's economy back on track, the people who are contributing the most economically, you know, for the most - generally are younger people. And so this is why Maria has just, like, not only screwed the island over in terms of its power grid, you know, but now is, like, possibly compounding all of the problems that Puerto Rico was like - was trying to just get out of, like, months before the storm hit, you know?

DEMBY: That's Adrian Florido updating us on the state of things in Puerto Rico. We know that was really heavy. So we did ask Adrian, you know, which songs were giving him life right now.

MERAJI: Are you listening to some Puerto Rican music? I really hope you are.

FLORIDO: You know what I've been listening to actually - not like actively but passively - (laughter) is reggaeton. Reggaeton is like...

MERAJI: 'Cause it's...

FLORIDO: ...The music of the youth here. And, you know - and...

MERAJI: Yeah.

FLORIDO: ...I am not of those.

(LAUGHTER)

FLORIDO: I'm not of them.

(LAUGHTER)

MERAJI: You are youth. It's just the - reggaeton is the same beat over and over again - doom-chicki (ph)...

FLORIDO: I know.

MERAJI: ...Doom-chicki. I can't stand that.

FLORIDO: It's not for me. No...

MERAJI: Does that make me old?

FLORIDO: Hey, you know what? You know what? I didn't think I could stand it before I came here either. But it's, like, slowly growing on me. So the reggaeton song I've been listening to is "Todo Comienza En La Disco." And that's a good one because it's got this line about - so he's, like, singing about this woman in the club, but he compares her to a hurricane. And he says - he's just, like, but I've got more money than FEMA.

(LAUGHTER)

DEMBY: Oh, my...

FLORIDO: Here, I'll play it for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TODO COMIENZA EN LA DISCO")

WISIN, YANDEL AND DADDY YANKEE: (Rapping in Spanish).

MERAJI: Oh, there we go.

FLORIDO: You hear that?

MERAJI: I heard it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TODO COMIENZA EN LA DISCO")

WISIN, YANDEL AND DADDY YANKEE: (Rapping in Spanish).

DEMBY: All right, kinfolk. That is our show. Please follow us on Twitter. We're @nprcodeswitch. And we want to hear from you. Our email is codeswitch@npr.org. Subscribe to the podcast wherever fine podcasts can be found or streamed. And give us a review on iTunes because it helps people find the show.

MERAJI: Leah Donnella, Lucy Perkins and I produced this episode. It was edited by Steve Drummond. And we had original music by Ramtin Arablouei.

DEMBY: Good job, Shereen.

(LAUGHTER)

DEMBY: Shout outs to the rest of the CODE SWITCH team - Karen Grigsby Bates, Adrian Florido - who you just heard - Sami Yenigun, Maria Paz Gutierrez, Walter Ray Watson and Kat Chow. Our intern is Kumari Devarajan.

I'm Gene Demby.

MERAJI: And I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: Be easy, y'all.

MERAJI: Peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TODO COMIENZA EN LA DISCO")

WISIN, YANDEL AND DADDY YANKEE: (Singing in Spanish).

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