Roundtable: Where Should Obama Worship? Where will the Obama family worship once they're in the White House? Plus, what was behind the presidential pardon of hip hop artist John Forte? And are McDonald's latest "urban" commercials cool, corny, or offensive? NPR's Tony Cox moderates today's bloggers' roundtable.
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Roundtable: Where Should Obama Worship?

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Roundtable: Where Should Obama Worship?

Roundtable: Where Should Obama Worship?

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TONY COX, host:

Now we've got our Bloggers' Roundtable and what they're talking about online. They left Reverend Wright's United Church of Christ in Chicago, but where will the Obama family worship now once they're in the White House? What do President Bush, Senator Orrin Hatch and singer Carly Simon have in common? The presidential pardon of hip-hop's John Forte, it's a hot Internet topic. Plus, are McDonald's urban commercials cool, corny, or perhaps offensive? We'll see what the buzz is all about at the Golden Arches.

Let's turn to our bloggers now. Here to weigh in, Jim Collier who writes the blog Acting White, Carmen Van Kerckhove, she blogs at Racialicious and heads the anti-racism training company New Demographic, and education analyst Casey Lartigue, his blog is The Casey Lartigue Show. Casey, did I say it right?

Mr. CASEY LARTIGUE (Blogger, The Casey Lartigue Show): Hey, don't worry, I've had enough experience with people mispronouncing it, so I (unintelligible).

COX: Well, I hate to get people's name wrong.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Casey Lartigue.

COX: Lartigue. OK, that was close, that was close. I'll take that. Hey, everybody welcome.

Mr. JIM COLLIER (Blogger, Acting White): Hey, thanks.

Ms. CARMEN VAN KERCKHOVE (Blogger, Racialicious): Thanks for having us.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Hello.

COX: Let's start with this one. The Obamas and worship. With President-elect Obama's impending move to Washington in January, folks want to know, where will the Obamas go to church? Now, Mr. Obama's last church choice nearly derailed his presidential aspirations after his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, was shown preaching anti-American and racially charged sermons. Mr. Obama then distanced himself from Mr. Wright, but Reverend Wright didn't let it end there.

Reverend JEREMIAH WRIGHT (United Church of Christ): And I said to Barack Obama last year, if you get elected, November the 5th I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.

COX: So Jim Collier, this time around, where the president goes to church is going to matter to some people, isn't it?

Mr. COLLIER: Well, I think it does. But I mean, I think the reality here is that presidents and even candidates for president generally go to church as politicians first and as individual citizens second. Because it does weigh in, you know, as they go forward. And I think in the case now that President-elect Obama is really, is definitely a politician, and he will be supporting and presenting programs and making decisions that really don't fall in the category even under the category of what should be churchly or reviewed as churchly. And so I think this is why presidents in general in office don't go to church.

COX: Well Carmen, let me read a blog posting to you and get your response to it, it's this: "If Americans really believed in the separation of church and state, this would not be an issue. We black people need to abandon the idea that Obama is exclusively our spokesman. Obama, who is just as white as he is black, but people conveniently overlook that anyway." What do say to that?

Ms. KERCKHOVE: Do we have time to get in to the one-drop rule? I don't know if we have time on this show.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KERCKHOVE: But yeah, this is definitely a thorny topic because, you know, as a lot of columnist have pointed out, people will be looking to see if he joins a church that's predominately black, predominately white. You know, both of those scenarios will be interpreted differently. But then there is also the other issue of what kind of philosophy the church stands for. You know, if he joins another church that has maybe a little bit more of a social justice agenda, could that turn into another liability the way his association with Reverend Wright did? But then again, if he joins a church that has no real progressive agenda and is maybe kind of bland, does that, again, send the wrong message? So I definitely don't envy the Obamas in having to make this decision.

COX: It's interesting, we have not heard that people has sent in to the Obamas suggestions about where they might go to church, as they were so willing to do with suggestions about what kind of dog they should pick for the White House.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LARTIGUE: This is Casey Lartigue. I will give him suggestions.

COX: I was going to ask you, because you're in Washington, D.C. What do you think they should choose?

Mr. LARTIGUE: Well, you know, he's multi-racial. He might to think about being multi-church at the same time. He could just alternate on Sundays about which churches he goes to and kind of do it like Frederick Douglass style. You might remember Frederick Douglass, when he was getting criticized for marrying a white woman, you know, his second wife, he said that the race of his first wife was the same as his mother and that the race of his second wife was the same as his father, so leave me alone. And I think the Obamas - I don't understand the interest in it. For me, if he goes to no church, if he sets up a separate cult, whatever it is, I mean, that's his choice.

Ms. KERCKHOVE: Some would argue he has set up a separate cult.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LARTIGUE: I know, you know, the all the interest in the puppies, his kids' chores, where they go to school and everything else. And this is a good time for me to say, I have some 1990 Obama newspaper articles I'd like to sell to all through to all the crazy Obama people out there.

COX: Well, you know, one of the things he might do, you mentioned going to different churches. That would be taking a book from the page of George W. Bush, who went to different churches and didn't express a particular denomination during his presidency, I believe. But there is precedence for presidents picking a particular church, but with this president, campaigning in part on his belief in God and his faith in God, it made it kind of an issue for him, I think. Do you agree? Let me ask you specifically, Jim, you agree with that?

Mr. COLLIER: Well, again, I think that the rhetoric of candidates is best left in the past, and I'm much more interested in decisions he makes as president. I don't want to be in his personal life. I don't want to be in his religious life. I just care about who he puts up, what he does, and how it affects Joe Citizen, or Jen Citizen here.

COX: All right. Well, we got some other topics that we're going to hit, but I am going to ask all three of my blogger guests to just hold on, we're going to take a quick break. We will continue with our Bloggers' Roundtable in just a moment.

COX: I am Tony Cox, and this is News & Notes. We're back with our Bloggers' Roundtable with Jim Collier who writes the blog Acting White, Carmen Van Kerckhove who blogs at Racialicious, and education analyst Casey Lartigue who blogs at The Casey Lartigue Show.

Mr. LARTIGUE: You said it right. Thank you.

COX: Thank you, I am practicing. I am practicing. All right, let's talk about McDonald's, OK? This is a topic that's cooking on the blogosphere right now. McDonald's has been making an obvious and concerted effort to market its products by using urban culture. Here's one commercial that almost looks and sounds like the latest R&B music video.

(Soundbite of McDonald's commercial)

Unidentified Man: (Singing)

I woke up and found you creeping Tip, toe, tip Oh girl, I know your secret Are you dippin' on me? Got that McNuggets lovin'. You went to McDonald's? It just ain't fair. Why can't you share your love with me?

Unidentified Woman: Nice song, but you're still not getting any of my crispy, juicy McNuggets.

Unidentified Man: (Singing)

Girl, you got a ten-piece, please don't be stingy.

COX: So Casey, what's the big deal?

Mr. LARTIGUE: I don't know. I really don't know. I mean, white people get to be goofy all the time. You know, first of all, I wish I could sing like that. I mean, he sounds good. But I'm not the least bit offended, but it seems that there is always a TV commercial that has some bloggers and activists offended for a couple of days until the next TV commercial comes along and offends them.

COX: Jim, are you offended?

Mr. COLLIER: Oh, no, I am not offended. I mean, I think that my 18-year-old daughter would really defend the commercial. But I think what's really going on here is this kind of commercial and this kind of focus really jumps into the split between sort of your lower educated income blacks and middle-income blacks or black (missing audio) in fact. And we still hold on to some of our embarrassments and some of our expectations, and people don't want to see it front and center, prime time, on these sorts of commercials. And that's really what it is. But they are funny, and they do have their place. There is nothing wrong with that.

COX: We reached out to McDonald's. I am going to read their comment and then Carmen, come to you for your response. McDonald's said this, quote, "We have a responsibility to all of our customers to effectively reach them. We certainly take pride in all of our advertising and try to make it relevant and appealing to our audiences. We do take a lighthearted approach to effectively reach our customers. We certainly have no intention of offending anyone." So what do you say, Carmen?

Ms. KERCKHOVE: You know, I would have an easier time taking this commercial as humor or satire if I hadn't seen all of the other tens of years of awful McDonald's commercials targeting African Americans, which are just so ham-fisted and awful. I mean, it's always like some black DJ spinning a burger on turntables or something really awful like that. And I think this is, you know, to take it to a more serious topic, this is a reflection of really the lack of diversity in the advertising industry.

I mean, if you look - if you follow the trade news at all, this is an industry that's been under investigation for the diversity, or lack thereof, in its hiring practices pretty much continuously since the 1960s. And you know, for those people who are interested in learning more about this, I would definitely suggest that you check out a blog called MultiCultClassics. And he's an insider in the ad industry who writes a lot about this issue of race in the industry. I mean, this is an industry that's something like 95 percent white, even though most of it is headquartered in New York City which is one of the most diverse cities in the country. So I do think that, you know, all jokes aside, there is a more serious issue.

Mr. LARTIGUE: Well, I want to go back and (unintelligible) the jokes, this is Casey, and say that if you're someone who is offended by that commercial, then it probably wasn't targeted at you.

COX: That's an interesting point. And we should also point out that I am told that that commercial was actually put together by a black advertising agency.

Mr. LARTIGUE: That's the next thing I am about to say. By now, McDonald's has learned its lesson. They're going to have somebody black in the room to, you know, sign off on it.

Mr. COLLIER: Well, but yeah. And if the goal is to get the kid whose pants are drooping down around his knees in to buy a big Mac, I mean, it's dead on. I mean, and I think that, you know, they shouldn't be drawn to task by trying to make a commercial to get someone who is wearing a three-piece suit, who's got a, you know, uptown job, who's eating in a very different kind of place. That doesn't make any sense. So I may not like the commercial…

COX: I am not sure that it's designed to get the person whose pants are sagging so much as the person whose wallet is sagging to go in there. Kids who can't afford to eat better.

Mr. LARTIGUE: You know what, I'll say this. I am a well-educated, black. I have two degrees from Harvard. I like the commercial.

COX: You like the commercial?

Mr. LARTIGUE: I liked it.

COX: I wondered what ...

Ms. KERCKHOVE: It's settled.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LARTIGUE: There you go. Next topic.

Mr. COLLIER: Do you eat at McDonald's?

Mr. LARTIGUE: Yes, I do.

COX: We have run out of time. We have less then two minutes and I wanted - the next topic is really an important one, so I'm not going to have an opportunity to ask all of you about it, but it has to do with the presidential pardon of the rapper John Forte. And apparently, from what I've read on the blogs, people are happy for him if they like him, unhappy because he seems to have people in high places who helped him. What's your take on that, Casey?

Mr. LARTIGUE: OK. President Bush could've freed a lot of prison beds by pardoning a lot of other nonviolent drug offenders. This is a presidential pardon, it's going to be people who have connections. He doesn't just pick a random inmate number and release that inmate. There's going to be people who lobby and probably people with connections who would get through to the president. Because it is a presidential pardon.

COX: All right. Our time unfortunately is out, as I said. And I apologize to the other guests, who are not going to have an opportunity to talk about that. We have been talking with Carmen Van Kerchove who blogs at Racialicious, she was at our New York studios, Jim Collier who writes the blog Acting White, he was at the studios at the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, and Casey Lartigue. Did I get it right again?

Mr. LARTIGUE: That's it. You got it. Thank you.

COX: All righty - whose blog is called The Casey Lartigue Show. He was at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. You can find links to their blogs and to ours at And the conversation doesn't stop here. Our online series Speak Your Mind gives you a chance to sound of on the issues you care about. To find out how, go to our blog,, and click on Speak Your Mind.

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