Free Speech?

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  • The question I’m about to ask might raise a few eyebrows. Here it is: When it comes to issues of race, should we censor ourselves when speaking to those outside of our race?
         
    Let’s start with record-breaking Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson. Johnson, now a commentator for the BBC, recently said: "Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefitted descendants like me. I believe there's a superior athletic gene in us."
         
    Then there’s Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman who must have been trying to ‘one up’ Johnson when he, in an NPR interview, said this about our nation’s president: "America's first black president hasn't arisen yet. [Obama] is America's first mixed-race president."
         
    Okay, let me clarify something. Our current president is a black man. Yes, he is mixed as well but, that said, Barack Obama knows he’s black, his barber knows he’s black, his African family knows he’s black, and the cops know he’s black.
         
    Maybe, just maybe, Morgan Freeman and Michael Johnson should have kept those comments in-house.
         
    Finally, there’s the soft-spoken Chris Rock who set off some national fireworks of his own with his controversial July 4th tweet, "Happy white peoples independence day, the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed the fireworks…"
         
    Well, "Mr. Everybody-Hates-Chris" has done it again. He’s managed to make a provocative point on race in his own unique way, echoing Frederick Douglas’ classic speech, "What to the slave is the 4th of July?"

    Maybe, just maybe, Rock’s tweet was a timely reminder of the checkered history and ongoing challenges of issues of race in our country. Maybe it was a reminder that, whether we celebrate the 4th or not, we, as African descendants, have had a unique experience that cannot merely be folded into the larger American historical experience.
         
    But back to my larger question: “Should we censor ourselves when speaking to those outside of our race?” Should comments like these from Johnson, Freeman and Rock have been kept within our community or blasted over national media for everybody to weigh in on?
         
    Not an easy answer. On one side, we have a long and tragic history in this country of having our race used against us.
         
    On the other, we recognize that talking about issues of race and attempting to build bridges of understanding, are important and necessary steps toward progress. I doubt we’d have a black president right now (no matter what Morgan Freeman says) if we had not had such provocative and often uncomfortable discussions on race.
         
    But I want to hear what you think. Text us here at 64-64-64 to weigh in on the question, “Should we censor ourselves when speaking to those outside of our race?”
         
    I’ll leave you with these words from Plato: “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools speak because they have to say something.”
         
    Until next time, this is Stephanie in love and hope.

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