This past Monday, I did a segment on Hannity regarding race relations after Common and John Legend's powerful Academy Award acceptance speech and performance. John Legend stated that "Selma is now and that the struggle for justice is right now." Legend went on to bring up topics such as voter identification and the incarceration rate (especially among that of African Americans, pointing out the fact that there are more African Americans imprisoned than there were enslaved in 1850).
I found these to be powerful statements and I applaud Common and John Legend keeping the conversation alive -- so that it continues to receive coverage on shows such as Hannity. Regardless of your feelings about Sean Hannity's political views, he is a proprietor of keeping tough conversations like this alive, and that should be admired. It is an important facet of our society that I'm blessed to be a part of.
Based on the reception from folks on Twitter and Niger Innis (Executive Director of teaparty.net and my counter-guest), I began to reflect. Why is it that these artists' statements don't receive validity? Isn't John Legend an American? Aren't his feelings and political views valid? How many Bob Dylans, Bruce Springsteens, Bonos, Public Enemys, Kendrick Lamars, Commons and John Legends need to come along before we start listening to these people? Can't the Academy Awards be a venue for conversations larger that film? How many studies have to come out that show that voter I.D. laws impede the ability of legitimate, registered, American citizens to vote? How many African American's need to die at the hands of police for baggy pants before we can have a discussion?
America! Progress, don't oppress! Michael Brown may have pushed a store clerk and even robbed a store, but does that mean he deserves to die? It is the job of police to apprehend a suspect and let a jury of his peers decide, not shoot an unarmed citizen six times!
When I go on a show like Hannity with the topic "Race Relations," I get the feeling that Mr. Innis and others pundits who share his views, aren't on the same page as America, or the African-American community. Anybody who is preaching to African Americans, "pants up, don't loot" doesn't have a clear understanding of why millions of Americans took to the street chanting, "hands up, don't shoot." They don't comprehend the principles and values that started the civil rights movement and ultimately lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. And they definitely don't realize the power of the emerging electorate, which is taking America by storm.
Here are the facts, I've been to Ferguson, I'm from Miami, and I live in Washington, DC. I listened to what people in Ferguson had to say and reported accordingly -- citizens are outraged. Radio Talk Show host and Democratic Strategist may be the credentials that get me on Hannity, but it is part of my job to communicate the voices that I hear every day! As long as we continue to have these conversations, progress is on the horizon.
Richard Fowler is the youngest syndicated progressive and/or African-American radio host in the United States.
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