Capital Citizen with Clinton Yates (Jan. 20)

Jan 20, 2014

Local columnist Clinton Yates takes your questions about politics, pop culture, people and whatever else you like from D.C.

What up all, happy MLK Day. There was a pretty incredible football game last night, and I wrote a column about the Reverend Dr. today. Check it out here.

How far do you think the country has come toward achieving the dream Dr. King spoke of in his famous speech and what do you think we need to do, if anything, to realize it?

Frankly, I think the country has come pretty far toward realizing his dreams in certain regards, but in others, has absolutely not gotten there.

Sure, we might not be having all out riots and brutality based on matters as simple as race, but then again, we still are, kind of. Look at what's happening in NYC with police. Look at the way immigrants are treated in this nation. It's a disaster.

I think that King's dream is looked upon as an obvious ideal, but if he lived on, his goals probably would have changed in a way that would be more apropos to our times.

To realize his dream? We'd have to still be in the 60s. I don't want to sell King's ideals short on what could have been, had he been around to evolve in this world with us.

I have to ask you about this but I'm not quite sure if you can comment on it beyond some relative vagueries. But I will ask for the sake of education, because its important for people to hear: what, as a journalist, would you have done differently in this piece? I know you said on Twitter you found the piece appalling and I agree with that. But to someone reading this asking "what's the big deal?" journalistically, what should people know to avoid that?

For those who don't know, Grantland published a piece recently that outed a transgender woman against her will. The writer claimed this was a necessary piece of information in the context of the story.  That woman eventually killed herself. 

To me, there is no "what's the big deal" journalistically or humanistically. While it's not necessarily appropriate or correct to draw lines between a story and suicide, I can say pretty plainly that I would not have continued with that story. I would have done everything to make sure it didn't run.

Maybe that makes me a soft person, but when you understand how certain people are treated in society, there's a point in which you have to be a person. That woman specifically asked him not to reveal her secret. It bore, IMO, little to no importance on the actual story, outside of the writer's own condescending curiousity about the subject. 

In short, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I did that.

How did your school mark MLK Day growing up? It was always interesting at my K-12 school watching the faculty try to plan something for a big all-school assembly.

I honestly can't remember. But I do remember when I saw Chris Rock's "Good Hair" and Al Sharpton told this INCREDIBLE story about why a) he first ever relaxed his hair. And b) how it was directly correlated to Martin Luther King, Jr.

There was a lot of talk last night on the Twitter about whether Richard Sherman was the woooooorst or the most awesome, inner-monologue we all have. Why do you think he inspires such discord?

Loud black men have been the scourge of American society, in some minds since the beginning of time. The notion of the "Angry Negro" is a caricature that goes back longer than I care to remember and you can see its lingering effects all the time.

The notion that Sherman is somehow classless because he likes to talk trash when he plays football, a game, is completely laughable on so many levels.

People don't necessarily always understand why they find certain things bothersome, but if you sit down and really think about all the pejorative stereotypes that filter down through the years, it's not hard to understand why people find guys like Sherman problematic.

FWIW, he's my favorite player in the NFL at this moment.

What would King's view of today's income inequality vs that of the 1960s would be?

Well, for one, I think Martin Luther King would be a relatively rich man if he were alive today. I think he'd think exactly what everyone thinks about it, presuming you don't have enough cash not to care. It's abhorrent. 

Best listserv comment you've ever read? Which neighborhood has the best? It would make a funny feature: The Latest from the Listservs.

No doubt about it, were the ones I read in conjunction to this column.

Some of the stuff from a couple years back about the liquor licenses and protests, etc., behind them were just off the chain. It's amazing to me what people are willing to say in a public forum sometimes. But then again, if it's not said there, nobody will know it's worth talking about.

As for features, I actually think listservs are more than something to be laughed at. People take them pretty seriously, and they can be a fascinating window into the worlds of people who enjoy typing messages to strangers. 

I wrote a different column, specifically about a particularly popular listserv once.

What do you think business owners could do in DC to be a better part of their communities?

For one, live in the District. Simple as that. If you live in the place where you work, you are automatically more invested in everything involved with making sure the factors that could make your community more viable are working well.

Secondly, have more friends that other business owners. 

Lastly, give jobs to young people. It's amazing how well this works to keep communities bonded.

What are your thoughts on Muriel Bowser's straw vote win in Ward 8? I'm racking my brain for why people support her and for any accomplishments, but I can't think of any. Not that I'm pro-Gray, but I'm surprised at the support for her.

I have no problems with Muriel, and I think she's a nice person. But I actually think that her idea of having a deputy mayor strictly to focus on communities east of the Anacostia River is outrageously insulting. Wards 7 and 8 are not specialized zones to be annexed and treated as anomalies. They're a part of the city like everywhere else. Treating them special is part of the problem, not the solution.

As an aside, when I was on MLK Avenue on Saturday, I walked by what I presume to be a campaign office of hers on that street. There were a lot of people inside chanting 'Ward 8' quite vociferously. That was before that debate/straw vote.

I don't think that prior accomplishments are necessarily the only reason to vote for a particular candidate, but in her case I think people can simply relate to the fact that she seems like a normal human being, not some politician who thinks they're smarter than everyone else.

Should the writer be fired for this? Or disciplined by ESPN/Grantland? Should any of the editors? This seems like a pretty egregious violation.

The thing is, because of the way societal politics work, it's not really a violation of anything. This is part of the problem. 

Are we experiencing another co-opting of a national holiday by retailers ? MLK Day mattress, car , clothing , sales ? Really ? Just like Veterans;' day sales , Memorial day sales? Can't celebrate national holidays without commerce ?

Quite frankly, I'm fine with that. Commerce is, on a certain level, what this country is all about for better or worse, and if it's a vehicle used to promote the likeness of someone we can all agree was a pretty good person for society, then why not?

From American Prospect: How Stevie Wonder and Coretta Scott King worked in perfect harmony to beat Jesse Helms and create a national holiday. Sad, no mention of James Brown or Al Sharpton. But interesting look at all it took to get this man a national holiday: "Helms called King “an action-oriented Marxist” and “Marxist-Leninist” whose “whole movement included Communists at the highest possible levels.” He called for the FBI to release its records on King (the FBI monitored King closely throughout the 1960s, and in 1963 the head of the domestic intelligence division had called him “the most dangerous Negro in America”)."

Funny note: apparently this article is "no longer available." But when it was, it was a nice "here's all the things I don't like about D.C. after living here for three months" piece. But turns out...the author's identity has been called into question: But seriously, why does this sort of unoriginal, uninteresting anti-DC stuff get play?

I think it gets play because a lot of people believe it. Maybe it's just something that's so ingrained in me that it doesn't bother me THAT much anymore, but anytime some clown shows up in town saying "this place sucks," I just laugh. 

Some of us were born here, raised here and many couldn't leave if they wanted to. If you have the privilege of arriving and disliking it, you probably also have the privilege of being able to leave.

A lot of food coverage ends up being proving whether DC can compete with New York or not, which ends up being tiresome and fruitless. But what would you do if you ran the food beat? How would you cover food in the city differently? Any spots specifically you think get overlooked?

For one, Joe Yonan, who runs The Washington Post's Food section is one of my favorite people at the paper. If you've never read his story about coming out as a vegetarian, you should

He also happens to be one of the best dressed people in the newsroom. All that aside, I think food is the single most difficult thing to cover in the world. People don't seem to understand the very basic correlation between nourishing your body and how you can succeed in society. 

Those who have regular access to food consider it the most basic of advantages, while those who don't understand that it's plainly critical to life. You don't eat, you don't live.

I couldn't care less about comparative restaurant ratings to any city, but I do care about access. It'll be intriguing to see how this boom of grocery stores in the city will affect patterns of eating and food education, and in turn, public health overall.

What's the future for rumored shadow campaign backer Jeff Thompson?

I'd say jail time. But I'm not a lawyer. 

"Last night shows that racism is still alive and well... And that's so sad.... At Least some people respect MLKs dream"

This is actually fascinating. People might not know this, but Richard Sherman graduated from Stanford University. In 3 years, I believe. 

That really shouldn't change anything you think about him, but if it did, ask yourself why. People love to throw around the 'you sound uneducated or [insert other coded insult here]' without understanding that being educated and being serene are not mutually exclusive. Nor should they be. 

I think this is a completely fair assessment of the situation from him, MLK's dream aside. People are always shocked when a black man says 'I'm the best, what are you going to do about it?' The question is: why?

Alright, kiddos, that's all I've got for today. Thanks again for joining, even on a holiday. Like I've said before, we'll be doing this every Monday, so feel free to keep the questions coming. Have a good week!

In This Chat
Clinton Yates
Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. He was born at GWU hospital the week before Ronald Reagan ended up there for the wrong reasons. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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