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Listeners Weigh In On Wealth, Cherokee Nation

MICHEL MARTIN, host: And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Alicia Montgomery is here with me. She is the senior editor here at TELL ME MORE. Hi, Alicia.


MARTIN: So what are people saying this week?

MONTGOMERY: Well, Michel, a lot of our listeners had thoughts about your Can I Just Tell You commentary this week. You talked about the political rhetoric surrounding issues of income and class, especially the call for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes. And you explained why you think that not every family that earns $250,000 a year should be defined as wealthy. Here's a clip.


MARTIN: That quarter of a million club could easily be two high school principals married to each other, a veteran cop married to a nurse who both work overtime. It could be a government lawyer living with a social worker, and they might be living high off the hog if they earned those salaries living in a small town, but guess what? They don't, or they wouldn't earn that kind of money.

MONTGOMERY: Michel, one of our listeners, Rick Evans, had this to say: Oh, please. Get real, Michel - 250(k), five times the median income, despite any measure, quite a comfortable salary. And you won't get me boo-hooing for couple of Buppie, Yuppie or Guppie principals, whimpering about what private school they want to send their preschooler to, or that they have to settle for a 4,000 square foot house instead of a 5,000 square foot house. You won't get me shedding tears for someone who lets their expenses as rise to meet their $250,000 income.

MARTIN: Well, Alicia, let me say that I anticipated this reaction, which is why I wrote the column. The fact is, as I said again, we have to get real about how people feel about what they earn as opposed to what the expenses are where they earn.

I got another letter from another gentleman named Judah, who said: I want to thank Michel for her comments at the end of the show. I am a white American earning about $250,000 and I'm living paycheck to paycheck. Finally someone is telling the truth, that it's not about what you earn but about what that money can buy.

To be continued.


MARTIN: Anything else?

MONTGOMERY: Yes, Michel. We also had quite a few comments on the story we did on the Cherokee Nation. Many African-Americans of mixed descent or descendents of people who were enslaved by the Cherokees were recently stripped of their tribal citizenship. We talked with Professor and MacArthur Fellow Tiya Miles.

MARTIN: Steven Williamson(ph) of Flowery Branch, Georgia, talked about that conversation online. He wrote that he's half Cherokee. He had this to say.

STEVEN WILLIAMSON: Sadly, being the slave of a Cherokee chief doesn't make you a Cherokee any more than being a slave to a wealthy boss in an Irish family makes you Irish. However, if a child is produced from a mixed relationship, then that child carries the heritage of both parents. I don't believe the council's decision is being fairly reported and this is not an attempt to expel the blacks, who are the real descendents of the nation.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for sharing that perspective with us to Steven. And Alicia, understand that we have some news updates.

MONTGOMERY: Yes, Michel. Back in April, we covered the story of Chrissy Lee Polis. She's a transgender woman who was beaten in a Baltimore McDonald's. The case drew national attention after a video of the assault went viral online. Well, earlier this month, one of the assailants, Teonna Monae Brown, was sentenced to serve five years in prison for that attack.

MARTIN: And finally, an update to our conversation with Issa Rae. She is the creator and star of the online comedy series "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl."

MONTGOMERY: Yes, Michel. We spoke with her at the beginning of September about a successful effort to raise enough money from fans to produce new episodes of the show. Well, we are excited to report that since then she has posted a new episode and the story of her character's love life got more interesting. Here's a clip.


ISSA RAE: (as self) Working with a crush is the worst.



RAE: Working with a crush outside of work, at night, at his house is just plain sexy.

MONTGOMERY: And will be posting a link to "Awkward Black Girl" on our site.

MARTIN: Thanks for that, Alicia.

MONTGOMERY: And thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again, 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE/NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Alicia Montgomery is the Supervising Senior Producer of Code Switch, and has been the lead editor of the Michel Martin: Going There live event series. She also part of leadership team of NPR's Sourcing Diversity effort. At Code Switch, Montgomery has been recognized with an award from the National Association of Black Journalists for radio editing, and edited a digital story that earned the Native American Journalist Association award for Best Editorial.