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Barbershop: Black Friday, Black Lives Matter And Social 'Cuffing'


Now it's time for our weekly trip to the Barbershop. That's where we gather some interesting folks to hear about what's on their minds and what's in the news. Black Friday and Black Lives Matter are some of the things people have been talking about this week. So sitting in the chairs of for a shapeup today are Jozen Cummings. He's an editorial associate at Twitter and creator of the blog untilIgetmarried.com. He hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC called the Empire Afterparty. And he joins us from New York's Radio Foundation studio. Hi, Jozen.


MARTIN: Also in New York is Katie Notopoulos. She's a senior editor at BuzzFeed, and co-host of the podcast Internet Explorer. Katie, glad you're here.

KATIE NOTOPOULOS: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: And also with us is Wesley Lowery in Washington, D.C. Thanks for taking the metro across town.

WESLEY LOWERY: Oh, of course, anytime.

MARTIN: He's a national reporter at The Washington Post. And I hope everybody had a happy Thanksgiving. We are hearing that fewer people are out and about doing the Black Friday thing. Were any of you out and about? Katie, were you out?

NOTOPOULOS: I was. I was actually out with my in-laws right around Rockefeller Center in Midtown yesterday. And there was definitely, I mean, just a ton of people out on the street. I wouldn't have wished it on my worst enemy.

MARTIN: Yeah, it doesn't sound like that fun. Jozen, what about you? Did you rally and rise? Did you get any bargains? What were you up to?

CUMMINGS: Absolutely not. I was in bed on my mobile device, looking through my email for great deals and kind of making a list.

MARTIN: Sounds sane. Wesley, what about you?

LOWERY: Nothing. I didn't do any shopping at all. I sat there and looked at all my emails. And by the time I to do it, it was, like, 1:00 a.m., and I couldn't do it anymore.

MARTIN: You probably could've gone some place. You could've gotten some vitamins for someone. But, you know, I'm told that - well, we know that Black Friday had been targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters in cities like Chicago and Seattle and Portland and Chicago. The demonstrators marched down the Magnificent Mile - the very ritzy shopping district - and they were able to shut down parts of the street for a few hours. And on social media, there were a lot of people calling for shoppers to boycott Black Friday altogether. And I'm just interested - Jozen, maybe you want to start. What do you think about this? I mean, do you think that this is a good use of people's time and attention?

CUMMINGS: I do. I think that there is a lot of value in protesting in these valuable areas in these spaces where people would normally just go about doing their normal holiday traditions and disrupting that because these issues - people see it on TV - more people see it on TV than they probably see it in person. And they probably think that that's not something that they have to deal with or be exposed to. But these protests become really - grow in importance when you see people take up the courage to actually go into places like the Magnificent Mile. That, to me, takes guts. I've marched; I've protested, and whenever you're going into very public spaces, there's always - you know, your heart beats a little bit faster. And to see these people line up in front of stores and not care what the spectators thought, not - I think that that what was very courageous of them.

MARTIN: Wes, what do you think? I know you were just in Minneapolis. You were covering - there was actually a shooting...


MARTIN: ...Of Black Lives Matter protesters there, and you were covering that. What are your thoughts about this?

LOWERY: Of course, so I was on the ground. One thing - I think it's really interesting about the Black Friday protests this year in Chicago and in a few other places is that they tried - they made the same attempt last year. So last year, if you remember the Darren Wilson grand jury decision came two or three days before Thanksgiving. And so there was this big push in St. Louis - let's boycott Black Friday; let's show them, this'll be a thing. And they couldn't quite get it together. And so it's very interesting that the difference a year makes, where, you know, the Laquan McDonald decision - or the videos were released the same day as the anniversary of the Darren Wilson grand jury decision. It had been exactly one year. And here we saw two or three days later, these massive protests and Black Friday protests. So it was really - to me, it was really interesting. I mean, I think that it makes obvious sense - if you're going to be an activist, you want to affect people, and you kind of want to inconvenience people who otherwise wouldn't pay attention to your activism or your issues. And so showing up and screwing up their brunch or screwing up their shopping is a pretty good way to do that.

MARTIN: Well, and the question, though, Katie is does it cause more resentment than it does - does it attract or does it repel? That's the question I would have, Katie. Do you have an opinion?

NOTOPOULOS: Hard to say - I'm sure that if I was there trying to get 40 percent off Kenneth Cole and I was barred from entering the store, I'd be very annoyed and upset. But, you know, that's also at the end of the day not very important. And the idea that you're stopping this mindless consumerism with something a little bit more mindful is I think a good thing net overall.

MARTIN: All right, well, let me change gears now. We're talking about the holiday season. I'm not going to lie, I just heard about this, the whole question of whether it makes sense to have a special relationship for the season, cuffing season. I'm sorry, I mean, I feel so far behind. I'm so ashamed. But, you know, I have been married for quite some time, so maybe it's a good thing I didn't know about this. But Jozen, you were - as I mentioned, you founded this blog. Do you say enough with this, don't do this.


MARTIN: You said don't do it. This is not the time. Tell me about it.

CUMMINGS: I don't think that cuffing season should actually come during these winter months. I think if you're single going into the holidays, consider yourself lucky, all right? Just, you know, that's one less gift you have to get. There's an excitement - there's the excitement of being single on New Year's Eve. Who knows what can happen? That's the night that you can - that you can meet someone. And I also think that the spring and the summer is a very under - very underrated season to have someone. There's just so much to do, so many, like, outdoor activities and great weather to enjoy that it's actually nice to enjoy it with someone else.

MARTIN: All right.

CUMMINGS: You know, for the winter months, the colder months, get together with some friends, put on some ugly sweaters and see what happens.

MARTIN: And see what happens - Katie, did you know about this? How did this term come about?

NOTOPOULOS: I don't know exactly how it came about. But I think it makes total sense. I mean, I think the summertime is a way better time to be single or meeting people. You know, everyone's wearing a little bit less clothing, you look great. The winter time, you've got a big bulky coat on walking around. You can't, like, look at other people on the street and be, like, hello, you know?

MARTIN: I don't know, I look pretty good in a sweater.


MARTIN: Bathing suit, not so much. I'm just being honest, just saying.

NOTOPOULOS: I think it makes perfect sense. You just want to - it's cozy, you just want to stay at home in a snowstorm and snuggle and watch Netflix.

MARTIN: Wes, where are you, cuff or not to cuff...

LOWERY: Oh, yeah, no, totally...

MARTIN: ...That's the question.

LOWERY: ...Cuff. And that's where it comes from. It comes from handcuffing, right, so this idea of, like, locking somebody down for the winter.

MARTIN: I thought it came off like muff - or cuff, like muff...

CUMMINGS: Oh, no. Oh, no...

MARTIN: See, I should just stop talking now. I need to stop talking. I just should stop talking.

LOWERY: It's not about winter wear. You know, it's about the handcuffs.

MARTIN: I was hoping it had to do with...

LOWERY: It's, like, I'm locking you down for the winter because I need someone to come to the holiday party with me. I mean, like, Jozen's out of his mind. He wants to be single for New Year's Eve. Like, that's totally not fun at all.

CUMMINGS: I just want to encourage people to stay strong.

LOWERY: Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no...

CUMMINGS: You know, you're single, you can do it. You can do it.

LOWERY: No, the winter is Netflix time. It is, like, it's cold outside. I'm not trying to go outside. I'm trying to have you come over. Maybe I'll go over there if I really have to. I have to go to this terrible work holiday party, maybe you could come and talk to me and give me an excuse to leave early. That is the time I want to have a girlfriend. Summer - you know, there's all types of stuff going on. People are day drinking, there are parties, there's the beach - much better time to be single.

MARTIN: I think we have a split decision here - cuff or not to cuff...

CUMMINGS: Well, I think - yeah, I think I'm outvoted.

MARTIN: All right, now to the uncuffing. If you've ever had the challenge of what to do about your ex on social media, Facebook is rolling out a new tool. It's called Take A Break, and it helps you see less of your ex. You don't have to unfriend or block them. Facebook will filter them out for you. Again, I should just stop talking because I didn't know about this. I didn't know about this either.

LOWERY: Because you've been cuffed for too long. Because you...

MARTIN: Thank you. I like it, actually. So OK, is anybody else going to take advantage of this new feature? Wes, are you uncuffing? Are you undoing...

LOWERY: Am I un...

MARTIN: Un-something - taking a break right this minute on your phone?

LOWERY: You know, right now, in the studio, my phone, exactly. No - so I don't know that I'm actually going to use this, although I've thought about it with some exes. You know, these are really dramatic. I don't think a lot of people, especially people, you know, maybe who've been married who maybe didn't have to go through dating and social media can quite comprehend how miserable it can be. Like, Facebook works on an algorithm. So I'm dating you, it means I'm checking your page every day. I'm making sure other guys aren't trying to talk to you. I'm looking at photos of us. Like, every day I'm probably interacting with you on Facebook. Well, Facebook remembers that. And so that means your photos show up more in my feed. It means your statuses show up more in my feed. So we have a dramatic, terrible breakup, I don't ever want to see you again. And for months, I will see nothing but everything you're doing. And so I do think it actually is a really...

MARTIN: Even if you unfriend somebody?

LOWERY: Well, you unfriend them. But see, that gets a little drastic.

CUMMINGS: That's dramatic.

MARTIN: That's dramatic.

CUMMINGS: That's very dramatic.

LOWERY: The etiquette's a little gray. Can I unfriend you? Should I block you? Can I - so this would be a good step to try to untangle it a little bit.

MARTIN: Untangle - Katie, what about you?

NOTOPOULOS: I mean, I'm totally in favor of people using this. I think this is also perfectly timed because this weekend is historically when all college freshmen break up with their high school...


NOTOPOULOS: ...Sweetheart that...

CUMMINGS: That's very true.

NOTOPOULOS: ...They tried to stay together with. So it comes out at, like, a perfect time when all these people actually need this feature in their lives to block out their old ex.


CUMMINGS: It's also...

MARTIN: Jozen...

CUMMINGS: It's also good that - at least Facebook recognizes, you know, relationships take place online as much as they do in real life. And it can be tricky navigating that space. So I think that this is a great tool for those of us who don't want to be dramatic with the whole - with the whole unfriending thing because that does make a huge statement and maybe a louder statement than you really want. And so...

MARTIN: But if you're not seeing - this is - OK, help me here, I'm confused because you're right, I've been married for a long time. And this predates the whole thing. If you're breaking up with somebody, why don't you just unfriend them? I don't get - why is that - that's just - is that rude?

CUMMINGS: Because it's supposed...

NOTOPOULOS: Then they win.

CUMMINGS: Yeah, it's supposed to...


CUMMINGS: It's not supposed to be that deep, right, like, we already broke up. That's as deep as it's supposed to go. Now you want to unfriend me, which is basically saying you can't stand to see my - a picture of my brunch? How dare you?

MARTIN: Oh, dear. OK, well, thanks for schooling me on that.

CUMMINGS: So - yeah, so it can go like that. It's...

MARTIN: Glad I don't need, but thanks for letting me know what's what.

CUMMINGS: Yeah, it's the same thing on Twitter when you could just mute somebody instead of unfollowing them.

MARTIN: All right, that's...

CUMMINGS: It's, like, a great tool.

MARTIN: All right, that's Jozen Cummings, writer and host of WNYC's Empire Afterparty podcast. Wesley Lowery, national reporter at The Washington Post and Katie Notopoulos, senior editor at BuzzFeed and co-host of the podcast Internet Explorer. Thanks, everybody.

LOWERY: Thank you.

NOTOPOULOS: Thank you.

CUMMINGS: Goodbye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.