Barbershop: Black History Month, Macklemore And 'Blizzard Baes'
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for a trip to the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and whatever's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week are NPR political reporter Sam Sanders. Welcome back, Sam. Thank you for...
SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Thank you, good to be here.
MARTIN: ...Braving the storm...
SANDERS: I had to do it for you.
MARTIN: ...To be here with us. Thank you.
SANDERS: Oh, yeah.
MARTIN: Arun Venugopal is host of the WNYC series "Micropolis" which looks at race and culture in New York City. Arun, thank you so much for sticking with us through the snow, too.
ARUN VENUGOPAL, BYLINE: Thanks for having me on.
MARTIN: And laughing at us all the way from NPR West in Culver City...
AMANDA SEALES: (Laughter).
MARTIN: ...Calif., if you didn't know, is Amanda Seales. She's a comedian and a DJ. Welcome. Try not to rub it in.
SEALES: I'll try - not that hard.
VENUGOPAL: Yeah, right.
MARTIN: Yeah, exactly - not that hard.
MARTIN: All right. So we'll try to sneak back to the snowstorm in a minute, but we do realized that just because we are buried in over here, life goes on in the rest of the world. So we're not going to dwell on it too, too much. But with that in mind, our first topic is some controversial comments made by Fox commentator Stacey Dash. And if you don't know her from "Fox & Friend," you might remember her as the character Dionne from "Clueless," the 1995 teen flick about some ditsy Hollywood girls. And Stacey Dash, if you are not aware, has become a conservative commentator...
MARTIN: Featured on Fox, and she was responding to a question about why some Hollywood stars have said that they were going to boycott the Oscars. And her response was to slam the BET network, so see if you can follow that. Let's play it.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX & FRIENDS")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So you say there shouldn't be a BET channel.
STACEY DASH: No, I don't think so, no, just like there shouldn't be a Black History Month, you know? We're Americans, period. That's it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you saying there shouldn't be a Black History Month because there isn't a White History Month?
DASH: Exactly, exactly.
MARTIN: Now, let's set aside the fact that if that's what she was saying, maybe she should've been able to say it herself. But the reason we're talking about this is this has actually gotten people fired up on Twitter. People are talking about it.
SANDERS: Well, my biggest beef with this whole thing - I like Stacey Dash in "Clueless" and "Clueless" the TV series and that Kanye West video she did. But what she fails to acknowledge in that statement is that she has appeared on BET programming. They have paid her. She was on "The Game." She did a BET movie. So BET tweeted back at her after this happened and said, can we get that check back...
SEALES: Ha, ha.
SANDERS: ...You know?
MARTIN: I don't know. What do you think about that, Amanda?
SEALES: Well, I'm not necessarily sure that the arguments to be made about Black History Month are even, like, within this context, you know? I think at the end of the day, Black History Month and BET are from the intention that, hey, this is a group of people that are in great numbers in this country but that are lacking in representation on mainstream media levels. So therefore, lets do Black History Month so the people who don't know about black folks can learn a little something about black folks other than Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman
But we also need to remember - Stacey Dash - where - who - why...
SEALES: She just showed up. Like, there was never any history of her even speaking about this in a public forum. You know, she's - she was never a part of the conversation until she was inserted as someone with a valid voice in the conversation like myself. I mean, I'm not just showing up. I mean, I've gone to school. I've talked about things. I've written about things. I've had - there's a canon behind it, you know? So...
MARTIN: She's made a - you've demonstrated an effort to educate yourself about this issues and to...
SEALES: And be educated as well.
MARTIN: ...Be educated, yeah. But Arun, let me ask you this. What about this whole question of these months - I mean, I can tell you that for myself as a journalist, I find them useful as an organizing tool - not just Black History Month but also Women's History Month. There's LGBT History Month. These are all congressionally designated. So Arun, what do you think about that?
VENUGOPAL: I mean, what I first think of is my daughter. You know, she's 14, and I think if this is the occasion when she's first exposed to James Baldwin or W.E.B. Du Bois or any black intellectual or thinker or some accomplishment that has gone otherwise unexamined in her education, then I think that's a great occasion for her to have the opportunity, you know?
It might be an artificial construct, but that's fine. I think it still needs to be done. So I think what she's saying, really, is kind of - it's tedious; it's silly. And I hate to sort of, like, you know, get on the fact that - who is this person, but it seems like it very well could be an excuse just to get a little attention for yourself, you know?
MARTIN: Let's move onto something else. We've got another related topic, maybe, kind of - is that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis dropped a single, and it's called "White Privilege II."
MARTIN: They already had a song called "White Privilege," so I think this is a sequel to that.
SANDERS: It is.
MARTIN: It's a nine-minute song, so we can't play - we're not going to play all of it here, but we're - let's just play a little bit of the beginning which refers to the 2014 Black Lives Matter march in Ferguson, Mo., that Macklemore participated in. I just want to play that part.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE PRIVILEGE II")
MACKLEMORE: (Rapping) Welcome to the parking lot - parked it, zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers. In my head, like, is this awkward? Should I even be here marching, thinking that, they can't, how can I breath - thinking if they chant, what do I say? I want to take a stance because we are not free. And then I thought about it. We are not we.
MARTIN: Amanda, you're the DJ here, so I'm going to give you the first spin at this.
SEALES: Ha, ha - nice.
MARTIN: Tell me what you think.
SEALES: It's nine minutes. I don't know if the folks that he would necessarily want to receive this would listen for nine minutes, but I think that Macklemore, in general, makes music with good intentions, and so I do appreciate that. And there's many parts to "White Privilege," so he's on part two. And I - you know, I don't really have anything negative to say. I think that he is just attempting to make music that matters, and I think that's great.
MARTIN: Arun, what about you?
VENUGOPAL: Oh, man. So I (laughter) - I've listened to this song about one-and-a-half times, maybe. And the first time, as I started listening, I immediately started wondering, you know, between the ambition of this song and the execution, I start asking myself, is this, like, the worst song of the year...
VENUGOPAL: ...Or of the century, perhaps.
VENUGOPAL: I thought this song was so bloated, and it's just so self-centered, you know? I mean, just in that part you just played, just count the number of times he says I or my. The whole song is really about his own, you know, thoughts about what's happening, and it's not about the substance of this experience or this protest.
And then he kind of goes on these rants. He's talking about his fans coming up to him and how much they tell him they love him and anguishing whether it's OK to, you know, join in this. He starts talking about Miley Cyrus and Elvis and Iggy Azalea and all this. He starts calling them out. And it's just really tacky in my mind. It was just this bloated nine-minute kind of, like, you know, extravaganza. So I didn't really like it.
MARTIN: Arun goes in.
MARTIN: Arun goes in. So how do you really feel, Arun, right? Maybe you'll come out of your shell and share your feelings.
VENUGOPAL: Let me put it this way (laughter).
MARTIN: Exactly. Now, Sam, what do you think?
SANDERS: I totally disagreed, and I'm the first person to hate on Mackle (ph) - for two years, I called him Mackle-less (ph) 'cause I just couldn't stand him. But I listened to this song and read the lyrics as I played it, and I really thought it was quite thoughtful. And I think that - I mean, to respond to what you said, Arun, all rappers rap about themselves. That a lot of rap, right? And I think that he perhaps felt he didn't want to speak for anyone else but him being a white person. He didn't want to speak for black people.
I went through the lyrics, you know? There were some parts further on where he really gets deep on issues of privilege and what it means. He talks about white supremacy. I liked how self-reflective he was. I also think he's become a much better rapper. A lot of why I didn't him for - at first was his rap just felt lazy to me. But he's gotten better at it. I think the song was well-produced. I think it was thoughtful. I think the most that he can do is acknowledge his place in this whole power structure, and that's what he does quite well, in my opinion, for nine minutes.
MARTIN: I love the diversity here.
MARTIN: I love the diversity of opinions. I love the...
SANDERS: And I'm the first to hate on him.
SEALES: Well, I will admit...
SANDERS: But I really like this song.
MARTIN: Go ahead, Amanda.
SEALES: I feel like if he had been pontificating in waxing poetic on, like, you know, these marches and doing it from, like, a birds-eye view, that would've felt like white privilege...
SEALES: ...To me. I actually appreciated that he's speaking...
SANDERS: He stayed in his lane.
SEALES: He's speaking from his privilege.
MARTIN: So Arun, do you think it would have been better if he'd just avoided the topic? See; this is so tricky because then, when people want to be allies and show sympathy or support for people, then they're criticized for it. But then, if they're, like, you know what; this is not my issue; I don't care; it has nothing to do with me, then people are, like, well, how can you be my friend if you don't care about what interests me?
VENUGOPAL: And he talks about that in the song.
MARTIN: I don't know, Arun. You don't have any sympathy for that whole question of, where do I stand on this?
VENUGOPAL: I do. I guess, basically, I can hear that being expressed outside of art in a more interesting way. Within this particular artistic context - I mean, I have been thinking a lot about, you know, what is trying to be done artistically in response to this particular moment we're living through. It's a very interesting moment. I think they are just more subtle and artistic ways of getting at it, and I don't think he really achieved that here.
MARTIN: Cool, interesting - well, all right, before we let you go - and see; now I feel awkward because this sounds so self-centered. But I want to talk about the storm...
MARTIN: ...Because it's only a...
SEALES: Storm privilege.
MARTIN: Storm privilege - thank you.
SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.
MARTIN: Storm privilege - I feel so exposed. But I wanted to ask about this. This is, again, something that has been described to me by my friends who are really deep into social media, and that is the whole question of the blizzard bae or the blizzard boyfriend...
SANDERS: Oh, my god.
MARTIN: ...That there's a - it's people taking to their dating apps looking for somebody to keep company with during the storm.
SANDERS: I - yeah.
MARTIN: And this is just simply reporting, not asking personal question. But...
SANDERS: I have one blizzard bae. It is red wine.
MARTIN: Oh, OK.
SANDERS: I think that, like, sure, if you got someone to boo up with, do that. But if you get a blizzard bae, is that the proper way to start a relationship - out of blizzard desperation?
MARTIN: Can I tell you this?
SEALES: Is there a proper way...
MARTIN: Can I just be your old...
SEALES: ...At this point?
MARTIN: ...Your, like, boring, old, married friend.
MARTIN: Can I just give you the answer right now - no.
SANDERS: Bad idea.
MARTIN: Bad idea.
SANDERS: Get your Netflix. Get your wine. Leave those apps alone.
SEALES: Leave those apps alone.
SEALES: That's the tagline.
SANDERS: Yes - hashtag.
MARTIN: All right, that's all the time we have this week with Sam Sanders, Amanda Seales and Arun Venugopal. Thank you all so much. Sam and Arun, stay warm. Amanda, you know, be as fly as you're going to be in your crop-top.
VENUGOPAL: Stay hot.
SEALES: I will. I promise.
MARTIN: Stay hot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.