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Shifts In Race Relations Since Obama's Election


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Celeste Headlee in Washington. If the election of Barack Obama was a milestone in America's racial history, then his first term was perhaps a measure of progress. Many Americans hoped the election of a black man to the highest office was more than a singular achievement but may have opened up the possibility of breakthroughs on racial equality and understanding.

Some African-Americans have expressed disappointment that the president didn't specifically address issues that affect their community during his first time. But has the presence of a black man in the White House changed the way we see each other and talk to each other? We want to hear from you on this. Have you had a conversation about race in the last four years that you don't think you would have had prior to the election of President Barack Obama?

Our number is 1-800-989-8255. The email address is talk@npr.org, and you can also join the conversation by going to our website, npr.org, and then click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later on in the program we'll hear Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in its entirety on what would have been his 84th birthday.

But first the conversations we have about race. Keli Goff joins us, she's a political correspondent for theroot.com, and is in our New York bureau. Welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION, Keli.

KELI GOFF: Great to be back.

HEADLEE: And also welcome back to Gustavo Arellano. Gustavo is the editor of OC Weekly and author of the syndicated column Ask a Mexican. He joins us by phone from his office in Orange County, California. Glad to have you as well, Gustavo.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: Always a pleasure.

HEADLEE: Let me begin with you, Keli, because you were on this air about three years ago, it had been a year since Barack Obama's election, and you were asked basically the same question, both of you - if anything has changed since then is our question now. It's been three years since you made those comments. What do you think? You thought there was a lot of anger at the time. Has that anger dissipated?

GOFF: Well, apparently not because according to polls, there was a Pew Research Center poll conducted before - just around the time of President Obama's election, that found that half - more than half of Americans felt that he would be helpful to race relations. And then that was about 52 percent.

Daily Beast and Newsweek conducted a poll several months ago that found now that 30 percent of Americans actually think that the first term of President Obama has actually been worse for race relations. So that's - and then a number of Americans actually refused to answer the question.

So when it's all taken together, they found that about 50 percent of Americans either think he's been worse, or they just think that he's been sort of stagnant or helped race relations sort of just flat line. So that shows where we're at. Now in terms of where I think we're going, I wrote a piece for The Root and the Washington Post talking about the impact - if things have gotten worse, then how can we ever be optimistic and assume they'll get better?

And my take on this is that things will get better, and we should believe that because history tells us so. There's not been a single major gain we've made in terms of race relations in this country, whether it's civil rights, whether it's the abolition of slavery, whether it's the increase of African-Americans who participate in voting, that has not preceded by some horrible, horrifying step back.

And when I say step back, I mean like lynchings. And so what I would say is that if you took a poll of Americans right after the Civil Rights Act was passed, I'm going to guess that a majority, a lot of them probably whites in the South, would say that that was horrible for race relations, right?

But then we look back on that and know that our country would never be where we are today if we hadn't made those strides. And I kind of think that we're in the growing pains throes of the election of the first black president, but things will get better in 10 years, and we'll look back on this as a pivotal turning point.

HEADLEE: OK, well, that's a little bit of optimism. Let me take you back three years, Gustavo. Three years ago you said there was a lot of fear about having an African-American in the White House. Has the fear dissipated?

ARELLANO: The fear, I believe, has - I don't think it's been dissipated, but if it makes things any better, I think a lot of people are really upset by President Obama's proposals, not so much his race anymore but what he's proposing, whether it be on health care, whether it be on gun control, whether it be, you know, on economics or the big thing that's supposed to happen in the next couple of months, immigration reform.

A lot of people are really upset by what he feels. But what I've seen - because I love to monitor the conservative media - what I've been seeing is not so much an attack on, or an explanation of his policies because he's an African-American or a black man, but because he's this crazy socialist liberal according to these people.

So in that sense I guess there's progress, that now we're attacking people for the content of their ideas instead of, you know, the color of their skin. On the other hand, you do have this anger. You have a huge portion of this country really fearful of the demographic changes that are happening here. And all across the United States. Latinos are now, all across the United States, specifically Mexican immigrants, especially in the South, places where historically the only conversation about race was between black and white; now you have to include Latinos, you have to include Muslims, you have to include Asian-Americans all across the board.

And I really think what's so - what was so amazing about the election of Obama is that it was no longer, you know, race - complex race relations or the conversations that we had wasn't just, you know, philosophical or all in the mind, now we have a black man in the White House. Now it's up, you know, up and center, a black man who lived in Indonesia, whose brother-in-law is Asian.

For a lot of people who thought that nuclear American family was white and maybe black, now Obama was a monkey wrench. And, you know, I agree with my fellow guests that it's true, right now we're going through growing pains. But I am also optimistic that 10 years in the future, we'll look back on these times as, hey, this is a reformation of this country that was long needed.

HEADLEE: OK, well, let me check in. You actually mentioned, Keli Goff, the Pew and the research they've been doing. We have with us Paul Taylor, who is executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, and he also directs the Social and Demographic Trends Project there and the Hispanic Center. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION, Paul.

PAUL TAYLOR: Good to be with you.

HEADLEE: A lot of these things that we're talking about, when we talk about whether or not race relations have changed, that's not an easy thing to study. I mean what kind of things have you - what kind of research do you have that gives an indication on what's changed since Barack Obama was elected?

TAYLOR: Well, it is very complicated. One of the things that's changed is race has changed. We are a much more diverse and multiracial community than we were just four years ago, certainly than we were 40, 45 years ago when Dr. King spoke.

We now have Hispanics and Asian-Americans. They were a very important factor in the election two months ago. They will be a growing factor by the middle of this century. Hispanics will be about 30 percent of our population, up from about 17 percent now, Asian-Americans now at about five percent, closer to 10 percent. Blacks, currently at 13 or 14 percent, will only grow slightly.

You add all that up, and we are on a path to become what some have called a majority minority nation or a plurality nation. So, you know, we've been dealing as a society for race for 400 years not very well. It's mostly been a binary black-white checkerboard, if you will. It's a much more confusing checkerboard. And inevitably the lines are getting blurred.

One of the fascinating things is a question of identity. You ask people who they are, you ask Hispanics who they are, and it's a complicated question for them because we tend to want to push people into racial categories which don't really work for Hispanics. But even to pin an ethnic category doesn't work that well.

Most Hispanics, if they're Mexican-American, they say I'm Mexican, or I'm Cuban, or I'm Dominican, et cetera, similarly for Asian-Americans. I think I would say from our survey research a couple of findings stand out. African-Americans, since the election of Barack Obama, have become - have felt notably better about the country as a whole and about their place in it, their sense of racial progress, their expectations for their children.

It's hard to imagine there's any other reason for that than but the election of Barack Obama because if you look at the other important thing that's happened in the four, four and half - or the four years that Obama has been president is we've had a terrible economy. And that has hit blacks and Hispanics and other minorities harder than other folks.

And yet their sense of themselves and even of their economic circumstances have gotten better, and I think that goes to, if you will, a fuller sense of belonging that has come from this truly historic breakthrough, so...

HEADLEE: Well, let me take that - sorry to interrupt you there, Paul, but let me take that to you, Keli, because you wrote recently that Obama's first term could be considered a failure, and people shouldn't be surprised by that. How does that coincide with what Paul just said about African-Americans in general feeling better?

GOFF: Well, I'll take a very anecdotal example, although there has been some wider studies to sort of couch this phenomenon I'm about to reference. I was talking to Jamal Simmons, who some of you may know is a political analyst and has appeared on a lot of networks. And he was talking about a family member of his is a principal in a low-income community that's predominately African-American school district.

And he said the thing about - his family member was saying his observation in terms of the impact of President Obama on African-American children, particularly boys, is he's the first black man who's successful, who's perceived as cool, who wears a suit for work every day.

And that, I think, is something that a lot of African-Americans respond to because the educational achievement gap in our community has had such damaging effects, this perception that if you get A's, if you wear a suit, you're acting white, and the trickle-down impact of that, of us having the largest dropout rate.

So I think for a lot of African-Americans, that is - there's something so symbolic that actually does have a tangible impact that's almost impossible for studies to gauge, even though if you will recall there was a study during the primary that showed that student test scores in a particular community did better whenever he won. Do you remember that study from I think 2007?

So that's I think part of what's at play here in terms of when you talk about why people sort of feel better. And lastly, I have to say that that Newsweek/Daily Beast study, while it did find that Americans as a whole were less positive about his impact on race relations, with black Americans you actually found that they were more optimistic about his impact on race relations.

So that's why I say you have to kind of look back at history and say, no, not everyone's going to be thrilled that we passed the Civil Rights Act or we have a black president, but by and large I think there are enough people who perceive that that will eventually be better for our country.

HEADLEE: Well, you know, one thing, Paul Taylor, that the Pew studied was whether or not blacks and whites had grown more alike over the past decade. We've got a couple minutes left here before we take a break. What did you find?

TAYLOR: We found that both blacks and whites said that, yes, they believe in terms of their core values, what they think is most important in life, there's a growing perception across this historic racial divide - yes, we are more like each other. And actually within the black community there was also a growing perception that there were wider gaps between blacks who - or middle-class or well-to-do and blacks who were poor.

And that's one of the things that's happened in this country since the civil rights era. It opened up a lot of opportunities, and a lot of blacks have done much better economically, but many have not, and there's a wider gap within the black community itself reflected in some of this polling data.

GOFF: Celeste?

HEADLEE: Yeah, go ahead.

GOFF: I'm sorry, and I know we only have a little bit of time, but one other thing we can't leave out of this conversation is the other thing that's impacting all of this too, is that one of the fastest growing demographics in our country is actually people who identify as multiracial and biracial.

Right, so that completely shakes up when we're talking about his long-term impact that we have a biracial president who identifies as black and now the Pew studies show that the majority of millennials, I think over 95 percent, support interracial relationships.

So you know, I think a lot of this that we're worrying about really will work itself out.

HEADLEE: We are talking about how President Obama's first four years in office have changed how we talked about race. Thanks to Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center; he joined us from the studio there. Paul, thanks so much.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

HEADLEE: Give us a call. Have you had a conversation about race recently that you don't think you'd have had prior to Barack Obama's election? The number is 800-989-8255. Or send an email to talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Celeste Headlee. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


HEADLEE: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. When President Obama took office about this time four years ago, there was a feeling, due in some part to the themes of his campaigns, that change was in the air. And it was. According to a recent AP poll, racial attitudes have not improved since then.

In fact the poll found 51 percent of Americans now express explicitly anti-black attitudes, that's up slightly from their 2008 survey. They also tested implicit anti-black sentiments and found those numbers also went up while pro-black attitudes dropped.

Numbers are interesting. They can be helpful. But what we're especially interested in is the conversation about race, how people are really talking about things that go on in their schools, their neighborhoods, their communities, even in their families, and how that may or may not have changed since President Obama's election.

And I wanted to read this email we got from Erica(ph) in Sun Valley, Idaho. Erica writes: A few weeks ago, I was in the post office with my four-year-old. He saw a picture of some African-American postal workers, and he asked me if they were presidents. This wouldn't have happened before Obama was elected president. We live in a rural community with a mostly white population.

And we're going to take a call here. We want to get your reports on any conversations you've had that maybe you wouldn't have had before Barack Obama was elected. The number is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. Or just go to the website, to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Calling right now is Philip(ph) in Los Angeles. Philip, conversation you've had that may not have happened before President Obama?

PHILIP: It's more of an observation that I've noticed in my professional life. And I notice that non-blacks, non-blacks tend to be a bit more, you know, aggressive and sort of we're on par now as before, sort of, you know...

HEADLEE: Explain what you mean. You're African-American, I assume.


HEADLEE: And when you say that non-blacks have become more aggressive, aggressive about what?

PHILIP: Well, in - personally, it seems as though we're on par now, even though, you know, if you consider things like post-traumatic slave syndrome, that theory, and, you know, we're still kind of getting over it. We're not equal yet, I don't think, considering all what happened here. And but however, since the president came along, President Obama came along, it seems as though the fight's more fierce.

You know, I'm ready for it personally, but a lot of people might not be.

HEADLEE: That's really interesting.

GOFF: Celeste?

HEADLEE: Yeah, let me say thank you to Philip, that's Philip calling from Los Angeles, California. And Keli Goff, political correspondent for theroot.com, what was your response?

GOFF: So Celeste, I think that if I may, I don't want to take his comments out of context, but I think he kind of tapped into something that has been discussed. I've written about it, and a lot of other African-Americans have certainly discussed it, even within my own family, which is that since that, because we have a black president, that subtle racism has become more acceptable, or comments that would not have been acceptable when we had a black president are now considered fair game because it's like how could it be perceived as racist, we have a black president, or I voted for a black president, so I'm just launching legitimate criticism that has nothing to do with me being racist.

And I've certainly heard this time and time again from a number of people, like I said including people in my own family, who say co-workers have made comments that they would not have felt comfortable making five years ago, but because there's a black president, it's more inclined to say, well, I think you people have gotten X, or I think black people do Y.

And I think - and I would want to see any president, regardless of his color, try to address that. That's...

HEADLEE: Yeah. I mean, just a guideline, you might - people might want to stay away from the phrase you people.


ARELLANO: Here in Orange County, we actually had two huge political controversies in the last term. We had a council member in the city of Los Alamitos. He forwarded a picture of a watermelon patch in front of the White House, and it says hey, there's new times in the White House coming along.

And of course everyone criticized him, saying he's racist, and he's like: I'm not being racist, it's just a watermelon patch. How could I possibly be racist for that? And even more, even worse, there was a Republican activist who forwarded a picture - it was of President Obama and his family, and it had President Obama as a baby with chimpanzees as parents. And again, she was saying: I'm not being racist. I just think he's an ape. That's all I'm thinking about.

And what's amazing to me is - the way I see it, it's a last gasp of a dying people. And I'm not talking about white people, I'm talking about bona fide racist fools who think that now because you have a black man in the White House, we can say this, but thankfully, there is a lot of people who get disgusted by it, conservative or not.

And so I really think right now, again, in 10 years we'll be looking at these days as, you know, the dying gasps of an America that has always been part of this country but is slowly disappearing away.

HEADLEE: That's - you just heard the voice of Gustavo Arellano. He's author of the syndicated column Ask a Mexican. He and Keli Goff of theroot.com are my guests. You know, I wanted to ask you ask specifically, Gustavo, because there's two different things going on here.

Both of you seem to be emphasizing that right now the conversation on race is worse but that it has to get bad before it gets better. But there's also this theme of the idea that African-Americans, at least, feel like there's more possibilities, feel better about their chances. And I wonder if that's the same for Latinos, as well, Gustavo, even though he's African-American.

ARELLANO: Yeah, you know, with regards to the Obama administration, on one hand a lot of Latinos say we're very proud of the fact that now we - you know, we had a black man in the White House. That is a landmark for civil rights. On the other hand, you know, President Obama has also shown just because you're an African-American or a minority in the White House doesn't mean that you're not - you know, it's going to be business as usual.

Deportations have gone significantly up under the Obama administration. So I guess that's progress, right, when you have a black man being as much of a sellout as a white man. That's pretty cool.


ARELLANO: That's on one hand. You know, on the other hand, though, it is something for us to aspire to, and what's great is that now it's not just Democrats but also Republicans who are realizing, like, uh-oh, like we can no longer malign the Latino vote because they're really powerful.

You know, in this past election, I think Latinos, 70-some percent of Latinos voted for President Obama. They swung the vote for him, the swing states, against Mitt Romney. Now what you're seeing is a real reflection in the GOP, realizing, like, we can no longer ignore this vote.

And at the same, Latinos are telling President Obama and other Democrats, saying hey look, like you're not going to be able to take us for granted anymore. So there has been a lot of criticism of President Obama for his policies. And what's happened as a result? Not only President Obama - not only is President Obama offering these immigration proposals, but on the Republican side Marco Rubio is really going up at the forefront and...

HEADLEE: Marco Rubio of Florida.

ARELLANO: Yeah, Marco, the Senator Marco Rubio of Florida - we need to have immigration reform. It's no longer a matter of what my party has said for the past four years, deportation all the way through. We need to legalize these people. And that alone, that really is extraordinary. I really don't think it would have happened under another president.

GOFF: And also, can I just say one of his first actions, I know Gustavo will - already knows this, but for your listeners who don't - was to help those who are undocumented to have an easier time staying in this country. The moment he was re-elected, he helped get that waiver through the Department of Homeland Security, for those who have spouses or children...

HEADLEE: Answer to your use of the word sellout. But let me read...

GOFF: That is a (unintelligible)...


HEADLEE: Let me read a couple emails here from listeners - and we encourage you to give us a call at 800-989-8255. Tell us about a conversation that has happened in the past four years that may not have happened without President Barack Obama in the White House.

Ray in St. Louis writes: A conversation that seemed too distant until Barack Obama was elected president is one that occurred a few weeks ago, when one of my four daughters and me, wherein she indicated that because the country chose an African-American male into the highest office, she has hope, certainty even, that a woman will be elected sooner rather than later.

We talked about how African-American males got the right to vote before women, and we wondered if that past event prepped us for this contemporary and future hope. That's a positive thing.

And then we got this from Scott, and I wanted to get both of you to react to this. Scott says: After watching interviews with the cast of "Django," "Django Unchained" of course the Quentin Tarantino film, and hearing that it's the first movie to show a black slave whipping a white slave owner, I wonder if those in charge of producing media have more courage to include these types of scenes since the election of a black president. FYI, I'm a white, 43-year-old male who loved "Django."

Keli, what do you think? Has it made people a little more courageous?

GOFF: I'm torn on this because I have so many issues with "Django" that have nothing to do with that. So I don't know if I'm the best person to ask, especially since I am a Tarantino fan, and I wasn't a fan of this flick. So I don't know. I think it's made people in the media more courageous to have these kinds of conversations we're having right now about race. I'll give you an example.

When the Trayvon Martin story broke, right, and you had the Jena Six story years before that that took a really long time for the media to ever wake up to, and it was really only because unknown black bloggers banded together to sort of push it to the mainstream media, whereas Trayvon Martin it took a little while for the media to catch on, but they really did catch on fast, and they really have, I think, done a really good job of sort of covering not just the story but some of the underlying issues, such as racial profiling, such as subtle racism.

I myself, as an example of conversations I wouldn't have had without President Obama, because Trayvon happened, and President Obama was asked about it and did address it, I ended up having conversations with white friends who had no idea I'd been racially profiled. You know, it was just so beyond the realm of possibility to them that even since I've been appearing on television, I was once followed out of the store and diplomatically accused of stealing something, which I didn't.

HEADLEE: And the Jena Six that you're referring to are the six black teens who were convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a student in Louisiana, just to give commentary. But let's go to a phone call here. This is Bill calling from Panama City, Florida. Bill, what's changed in terms of race relations since Barack Obama's election?

BILL: Well, I - well, you know, just a comment. But I actually - I worked on an Air Force base, and it was very taboo for people to make racial comments, of most any kind. But, you know, I've heard it a lot now, and I think it happens to me. You know, I'm a white guy, and what happens is people feel comfortable. All the guys, I think, feel comfortable with me.

HEADLEE: Let me be - I'm sorry. Let me clarify here, Bill. You're saying it would have been taboo to make these racial comments before Barack Obama's election and has become sort of, in an unspoken way, OK to make openly racist comments since Barack Obama was elected.

BILL: You know, I don't know how do you say OK. I just know that I spent 20 years in the Air Force, and there are people that are there that are retired now, too, that openly make racial comments, you know, towards black people or people on welfare that you never heard before.

I mean, I had a conversation one day where a guy turned around. He said, you know, when we get him out of the White House, things will get better. And one of the supervisors said, well, you know, it's not really him. His comment was, oh, yeah, that's right. Once you have one of them in there, you got to let him stay eight years.


BILL: And you would never hear that, you know?

HEADLEE: All right. Well, thank you very much. That's Bill calling from Panama City, Florida. Keli, your reaction to that. This appears to be what you were talking about before.

GOFF: Yeah, which is why I'm not surprised, unfortunately, in my reaction because I think Gustavo made a really great point in the opening when he was talking about how so much more of it is issues-based, and that seems to be progress. But I would argue, actually, that that is part of the subtle racism I'm talking about. I'll give you a quick example.

The Klan membership has exploded in the last 14 years, right? And when you talk to the Klan - and I actually - I interviewed not someone from the Klan, but I did interview a white supremacist for a piece. Long story, but people can feel free to Google the piece. But I did - so then I did get a chance to talk to one on the phone, and they do keep speaking about issues, right?

They keep saying there're issues with Obama. They're very specific to what he's doing on, policy-wise. He wants to take their guns, et cetera, et cetera. But you can't convince me that the explosion of Klan membership is not - it's not really just about immigration policy. It's not really about guns.

It's about the fact that on top of someone pushing those issues, you have a black guy who, by the way, to them is not just black, but it's the white woman, the black father, you know, everything that they are sort of essentially against in the White House.

And so he has literally been called one of the greatest recruiting tools in the history of the Ku Klux Klan. That's not me saying that. That's experts on hate groups and themselves. They've agreed that he has been one of the best promotional tools.

Lastly, I just want to mention, not to plug my piece, but some of the incidents Gustavo was referring to in terms of racist (unintelligible), et cetera, tweets and Facebook posts from conservative elected officials, that's actually linked to in a slideshow that New York magazine put together that's in my piece today on Colin Powell's comments about racism in the GOP. That's up on The Root. So if they want to see 10 examples of racist comments from GOP elected officials, you can go there, or read the news.


HEADLEE: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

If, you know - and, look, this isn't a political thing. I've heard racist comments or things that could be interpreted as racist coming from Harry Reid and other people as well. This is a conversation that we as America needs to have and perhaps are not...

GOFF: It's true.

HEADLEE: ...doing very well. Let me - let's go to another call here. This is Letty(ph) calling from San Antonio, Texas. Letty, what's changed in race relations since Barack Obama was elected?

LETTY: Well, one of the things that I've noticed is my son, a huge football fan, but he - there are not many African-American students in the school. And initially, he idolized African-Americans that he saw, you know, on - in football, sports. But with Barack Obama's presidency - and really that's the only president he's known - it's - it doesn't even faze him. He's like, of course, a black man can be president. He doesn't even think black. He just thinks, that man can be president. Why not?

And - but one of the counters to that is that he had heard statements in school from other students. I guess they're expressing what parents have said - and, of course, it's hurtful to him because he's just thinking this is our president. Let's root for him like he'd root for any team. So he's seen a little bit of both, which we would not - I don't think - definitely would not have been exposed to with another, you know, with another white president, with another white male.

The only problem is when I say, well, you know, just is - I try to explain how historic it is, he'll say like - it's like if a woman were to be president. He looks at me and thinks, well, that would never happen because, of course, it hasn't happened in his lifetime.


GOFF: Wow.

LETTY: But, you know, it's - that's what I'm saying. There has been a change, and I don't think we'll see that until a few years down the road with the people that have been exposed to it now, you know, being born and knowing the only president they've ever known is an African-American president. So I think that'll definitely have a profound change in society down the road.

HEADLEE: Yeah. I mean, we're looking years ahead. Thanks so much. That's Letty calling from San Antonio, Texas. Let me put this then to you, Gustavo Arellano. Is this idea that non-blacks and non-minorities feel it's OK to say things that could be interpreted as racist? Has it become OK for a non-minority to feel like they're a victim? Maybe that's the source of the fear and the anger.

ARELLANO: No, it's not OK at all. I find it hilarious when you do have people now saying, oh, you know, like some white folks or other people saying, we're the minority now. We're the afflicted people. It just ignores - it really ignores the reality of the situation, especially with - when it comes to Latinos.

Here in Southern California, of course, Latinos are now the majority. And there seems - in some circles, there's this fear that somehow, now that minorities are in power, we're going to turn to the worst excesses of the Antebellum South and, like Django, start whipping everyone into frenzy, or, you know, as Mexicans, start ripping the white, you know, ripping the hearts out of white people and eating them, which is absolutely silly because we are students of American history.

Those of us who have suffered the racism and prejudices of the past, we're going to make sure not to turn around and do the same thing. And for those - especially in my Ask A Mexican column, I've been doing this way before Obama. I've been doing it since 2004.

So when you asked earlier if the media now feels it's OK to talk about certain subjects, us in the alt-weekly press, we've been doing it since forever. That's a question for the mainstream media. But especially now for me, when you do have Latino politicians making, say, anti-black or anti-Jewish or anti any minority jokes or comments, I'm going to be doubly hard on them, telling them, look, we went through all this crap so we could be at a more equal society. And now, you're doing what we've always argued about forever. You're going to get doubly shamed and everyone should doubly criticize you for that.

HEADLEE: And yet, I think there's a lot of complaints that people on the left get away with it, Kelly.

GOFF: Yeah. I mean, look, I think I was very candid that the Harry Reid situation, were for your listeners who have forgotten, you know, he made the comment about how President Obama was essentially a more palatable candidate because he was fair-skinned and to speaks well.

HEADLEE: Articulate.

GOFF: And he used the term - I think, was it colored? It was colored, right?

HEADLEE: Yeah. He uses that and Negro sometimes, yes.

GOFF: Yes, Negro, sometimes.

So, you know, and I was very candid that, of course, people are - were letting him - were less harsh on him mainly because most racists don't go around trying to give black men more power, right? This is sort of, like, OK, that's a very odd strategy that he's trying to get the racists, who's trying the black guy to be - to have the most powerful perch in the country.

HEADLEE: Fair enough.

GOFF: But you're right that there are things that we let Democrats get away with that we sometimes shouldn't, right?

HEADLEE: Yeah, right.

ARELLANO: And he never should.

HEADLEE: That's Keli Goff, political correspondent for theroot.com. She was with us today from NPR New York. Gustavo Arellano is editor of OC Weekly, author of syndicated column "Ask a Mexican!" He's also author of "Taco USA." Thanks to both of you.

GOFF: Thank you much.

ARELLANO: (Unintelligible).

HEADLEE: When we come back, we'll hear Martin Luther King Jr.'s landmark "I Have a Dream" speech. We usually to play it on the third Monday in January. This year, that's Inauguration Day, so you'll hear it in a moment. I'm Celeste Headlee. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.