The other day, when everyone was hyped up about parents who had decided to keep their kids out of school so they wouldn’t have to hear President Obama tell them to stay in school, we jokingly said that those parents and school administrators who caved in to their pressure ought to be “pimp-slapped.” We said the president should appoint a Secretary of Pimp-Slapping to go upside the heads of all the white people who seemed to have lost their minds since Obama was elected.

Someone heard that and called our company to complain.

When we get these kinds of complaints, our defense usually is that we cater to a mostly African-American audience, and the information we provide comes from a black perspective. We joke about things on the air that we might joke about at home. By doing it on the radio, the general public (i.e. white people) get a chance to hear things they probably wouldn’t normally hear from their black employees, co-workers or friends.

But actually, the bigger point for me is how we – all of us – choose to hear what we want to hear then get upset about it. I would think that the fact that people were so set on showing their distain for the president that they would keep their children from hearing a speech about the importance of education would be much more upsetting than us joking about pimp-slapping people.

I mean, last night, someone – perhaps for the first time in history – heckled the President of the United States during a speech before a joint session of Congress. Not just someone, but a congressman, Joe Wilson from South Carolina.

We all are guilty of saying things we shouldn’t say and being embarrassed about it later. But sometimes the things we say should get us into a world of trouble, and this is one of those instances. If Congressman Joe Wilson is not seriously harmed politically and financially by his actions, then we are setting up a dangerous precedent that changes the way the president will be treated in public. If a member of Congress is comfortable enough to yell out “You lie!” to the president, what might happen the next time he makes a speech in front of just regular, angry, ignorant people?

Congressman Joe Wilson may be apologetic as he makes the public rounds, but there are places he will go this week where he will be congratulated and made to feel that he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. I don’t think we should allow that to happen. I think we should keep the heat on until he resigns so that everyone recognizes that it isn’t okay to show that kind of blatant disrespect to the president of the United States.

Go ahead, somebody; say it: What about free speech, Tom? Congressman Wilson freely said what he wanted to say. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to answer to anyone for what he says. I have a right to make jokes about pimp-slapping, but that doesn’t mean I won’t anger someone enough that they stop listening to the show. The former environmental main man, Van Jones, had the right to speak up and out about his feelings regarding our government and 9/11, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t impact any future jobs or appointments he got with the United States government.

Today is September 11th, and as we honor the memory of those who lost their lives in that tragedy, we can’t lose sight of other harsh realities we face in this country or why it’s so important to realize that with freedom comes responsibility – and often a price.

As upset as I am about what Congressman Wilson yelled out to the president, I don’t want us to get so caught up on words that we mess around and forget about health care reform, that HBCUs need for money from the government, the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, the high dropout rate or the epidemic of violence that plagues not just our inner cities, but is now following our children to college campuses. Let’s hold Congressman Wilson accountable for what he did and keep holding ourselves accountable for what needs to be done.

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One thought on “Fighting Words

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