Ignorance No Longer a Defense
A year or so ago, I had a White colleague in the media industry who did not know that calling a Black person a gorilla, monkey, ape or anything similar constituted a racial slur.
We got into a debate on the radio about comedienne Roseanne Barr comparing former President Barack Obama Cabinet member Valerie Jarrett to the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
My colleague honestly did not know that Black people considered that a racial slur as he tried to make false equivalences out of White people like former President George W. Bush getting called a monkey or something of that sort.
I am a good judge of character too, so I know when someone is being sincere and solid as opposed to fake and phony.
To his defense, he did not know what he did not know and I had to educate him on air as to why I would rather a White person call me the N-word, than call me a monkey or a gorilla.
That whole Roseanne controversy, which received national attention in the media and resulted in the cancellation of the “Roseanne” reboot, is the reason why a White reporter saying that her Black co-anchor looks like a gorilla should have been greeted with termination and not an on-air apology.
On Oklahoma’s ABC affiliate KOCO-TV, Alex Housden, a White female journalist, told her Black colleague Jason Hackett that the gorilla “kind of looks like you.”
To which Hackett replied, “He kind of does, actually, yeah.”
Some criticized Hackett’s response and used it as an excuse as to why Housden’s comments were not racial in tone.
But what was Hackett supposed to do?
Should he have cursed out Housden and lost his job because of her ignorance.
Not only lose his job, if Hackett had exploded he would have ended his journalism career and been seen as a threat to his co-worker.
His blow-up on camera would have symbolized the angry Black man stereotype even though the blow-up would have been justified.
Additionally, when a White person hurls a racial slur it might shock the pants off of a Black person because until President Donald Trump took over the White House, racial stupidity often stayed behind closed doors.
And throughout President Trump’s administration, Black Americans have spoken out against his racist comments.
Therefore, there is no way on God’s green Earth that a reporter, who has the sole responsibility of keeping up with current events, news and issues, should not have known that her racist comment would result in calls for her termination.
The Roseanne controversy happened in 2018 for goodness sake and the young lady is not that new to the news business.
And the reporter has to know that despite her crocodile tears and professed friendship with the Black journalist, a person’s racist views will float out of their subconscious eventually.
The next day Housden said, “I’m here this morning because I want to apologize, not only to my co-worker Jason but to our entire community. I said something yesterday that was inconsiderate, that was inappropriate, and I hurt people. And I want you to understand how much I hurt you out there and how much I hurt you.”
She told her co-anchor that she “would never do anything on purpose to hurt you. I love our community, and I want you all to know from the bottom of my heart: I apologize for what I said. I know it was wrong, and I am sorry.”
If a person has stereotypes and racist views, eventually those views will creep out, even on the job and even on live television.
But just imagine if the brother had said something stereotypical about the Jewish community.
Arguably, his career as an on-air journalist would have ended that day too.
Imagine if the brother had something stereotypical about the LGBT community.
LGBT protestors might have boycotted the television station and his career would have ended that day too.
Comedian Kevin Hart decided to quit his dream job of hosting the Academy Awards after old homophobic tweets surfaced online.
Comedian Dave Chappell is facing ridicule for his jokes on the Netflix comedy special “Sticks and Stones” with some calling his jokes insensitive and bigoted.
Nevertheless, a White lady gets to use one of the most hurtful racial slurs aimed at Black people and keep her job.
Although my colleague could not believe that Black people would find the ape reference offensive, in the past he found comments from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan anti-Semitic and comments by Joy Reid of MSNBC as homophobic.
Farrakhan even lost his social media profiles because of hate speech policies.
Many people have no problem chastising a Black person for saying something bigoted, but if you look online you will see many social media users saying that the gorilla comparison was no big deal and that mainstream media had made a mountain out of a molehill with the story.
But people have to know in 2019, saying racist, anti-Semitic, sexist or homophobic things does not hurt the party you are targeting with your slurs.
Those slurs will hurt the person who utters those words.
It might hurt the person when looking for a job.
It might hurt the person when trying to get into school.
And it might hurt the person by destroying friendships with the people of the offended demographic.
While I have been more forgiving of young people like teenagers and college students for making similar mistakes, Housden is a grown woman who knows better.
And if Housden did not know that her comments were hurtful, who cares, because ignorance is no longer a justifiable excuse for racist rhetoric and racist stereotypes.